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Covid news - live: Starmer says PM should apologise over ‘damning’ report on handling of pandemic

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Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 12 October 2021 18:20
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UK 'waited too long' to impose COVID-19 lockdown, costing thousands of lives: report

Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to apologise to bereaved families after a critical report on the government’s Covid response was released.

The Labour leader said the report was a “damning indictment” of the Government and thinks that the public Covid inquiry should begin earlier than the planned date of Spring 2022.

The report said mistakes at the start of the Covid pandemic cost lives and the government’s initial policy “one of the most important public health failures” ever in the UK.

The joint inquiry by the Science and Technology Committee and the  Health and Social Care Committee said the UK’s preparation for a pandemic was far too focused on flu and ministers waited too long to push through lockdown measures in early 2020.

Stephen Barclay, the Cabinet Office minister, refused to apologise and insisted the government “did take decisions to move quickly” in the wake of the report’s publication.

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Good morning and welcome to our coverage of the Covid pandemic, as the UK reacts to a new damning report on the government’s Covid response.

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 08:13
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Initial response to Covid cost thousands of lives, report finds

Ministers have repeatedly denied that the government sought to build up population immunity against the virus by allowing it to freely spread in the UK.

But findings from a cross-party inquiry show this was the “effective consequence” of the initial response to Covid, resulting in tens of thousands of avoidable deaths.

Our science correspondent, Sam Lovett, has the full story on the new report:

Government’s early Covid response ‘amounted in practice’ to herd immunity, MPs say

Inquiry led by two House of Commons select committees condemns government for catalogue of delayed decisions and errors that resulted in tens of thousands of preventable UK deaths

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 08:15
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Minister refuses to apologise to public

The Cabinet Office minister refused to apologise when asked repeatedly this morning.

“I suppose you want to start with an apology to the British public?” Kay Burley asked Stephen Barley this morning as he appeared on Sky News.

Watch the full interview here:

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 08:40
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Minister refuses to apologise to public

The Cabinet Office minister refused to apologise when asked repeatedly this morning.

“I suppose you want to start with an apology to the British public?” Kay Burley asked Stephen Barley this morning as he appeared on Sky News.

Watch the full interview here:

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 08:40
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Minister ‘does not accept we were late to lockdown'

Stephen Barclay also told Good Morning Britain he does not “accept we were late to lockdown”.

When pressed on the findings of the report, which says thousands of lives could have been saved if lockdown happened earlier, he said there was a “wide range of views” among the programme’s own viewers on whether lockdown was too strict, too long or not enough.

Watch here:

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 09:02
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Minister refuses to apologise for failings ‘costings thousands of lives’

Holly Bancroft has the full story on Stephen Barclay’s refusal to apologise in light of the report’s findings this morning:

Government’s early Covid response ‘amounted in practice’ to herd immunity, MPs say

Inquiry led by two House of Commons select committees condemns government for catalogue of delayed decisions and errors that resulted in tens of thousands of preventable UK deaths

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 09:42
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‘Some of the advice that he got was also wrong’

Jeremy Hunt told Good Morning Britain the prime minister was “ultimately responsible” for not locking down early enough, but that some advice he received was “also wrong”.

“There was a groupthink that the way you tackle a pandemic should be similar to a flu pandemic, I was part of that groupthink too when I was health secretary,” the Tory MP added.

Watch here:

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 10:10
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Covid death toll figures

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released their latest statistics on the UK’s Covid death toll on the same day as the a damning report into the government’s response.

A total of 163,437 deaths have occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The highest number on a single day was 1,484 on 19 January.

During the first wave of the virus, the daily toll peaked at 1,461 on 8 April last year.

Additional reporting by PA

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 10:25
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‘Issue of hindsight'

Stephen Barclay, the Cabinet Office minister, has been speaking to the media this morning after the report was released.

On Covid deaths, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, look - as the Prime Minister said in May, he was sorry for the suffering the country has experienced, we take responsibility for everything that has happened, and that is why we’ve committed to an inquiry in order to get the answers to what has happened and to explain to those families the basis of the decisions that have been taken.”

And asked if the government was slow to go into lockdown, he said there was an issue of “hindsight”.

“At the time of the first lockdown the expectation was that the tolerance in terms of how long people would live with lockdown for was a far shorter period than actually has proven to be the case, and therefore there was an issue of timing the lockdown and ensuring that that was done at the point of optimal impact,” he said.

The minister added: “We now know that there was much more willingness for the country to endure that than was originally envisaged.”

Additional reporting by PA

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 10:33
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‘Fatalism’ in early days, former health secretary says

Jeremy Hunt said there was a “fatalism” in the early days of the pandemic response which led the government to believe that widespread immunity was the only way to stop coronavirus.

“I think we wanted to do everything we could, but once we had concluded there was community transmission, that was going to be very difficult to do,” the former health secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

Mr Hunt - who chairs one of the committee’s behind the new report - also said part of the reason was the government believed some of the measures taken to curb the spread of the virus in China, where the pandemic originated, “would not be possible in a democracy”.

Additional reporting by PA

Zoe Tidman12 October 2021 10:46

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