Chancellor Rishi Sunak has refused to apologise for telling Britons to “live without fear” shortly before the massive second wave of coronavirus infections and deaths over the winter.
Mr Sunak was hailed by Conservative backbenchers in September when he used his Winter Economy Plan to defend moves to open up society, such as his Eat Out to Help Out scheme in the summer, insisting that “our lives cannot be put on hold”.
Their advice was not accepted by Boris Johnson, who instead stuck with regionalised restrictions until rising numbers of infections forced a second England-wide lockdown in November.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Sunak was asked why voters should trust his judgement in the light of these comments.
“Back in September you were telling us we should live our lives without fear,” said presenter Mishal Husain. “Since then we’ve doubled the number of Covid deaths.
“Perhaps we should have not been following your advice at that point and living with more fear?
Mr Sunak responded: “In terms of having come back over the past year, I’m not going to apologise for that.
“We’re dealing with a - hopefully - once-in-a-century situation for which there isn’t a playbook for how to respond.
“As the health situation was evolving it’s absolutely right that we adjust our economic response. That’s the right thing to do.”
Mr Sunak said that the UK will have to learn to live with Covid-19 in the future, as it will not be possible to eradicate the disease altogether.
“In terms of living with the virus, that is something we’re going to have to learn to do,” he said.
“As other members of government have also talked about, this will hopefully become something like flu that we do learn to live with. Vaccinations and other treatments will enable us to live with it.
“We are not going to completely ever be able to eliminate Covid, so like flu it will be something we learn to live with but can do so in a way that doesn’t require the degree of restrictions we’ve had to endure over the past 12 months, which obviously have enormous implications for lots of other things, not least for our children’s education in school.”
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