A government minister has refused to apologise over the handling of the pandemic and people are furious.
Speaking to Sky News, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay fobbed off a number of requests to say sorry after a report concluded the government made serious errors in its early handling of the pandemic, and merely said: “If there are lessons to learn, we’re keen to do so.”
At the start of the interview, presenter Kay Burley asked him: “Keen to start with an apology though, I would have thought?”
Barclay replied: “Well, no, we followed the scientific advice, we protected the NHS, we took the decisions based on the evidence before us.
“But, of course, we’ve always said with something so unprecedented as the pandemic there will be lessons to learn. We’re keen to learn them – that’s why we’ve committed to an inquiry.”
It comes after a cross-party report determined that serious errors and delays at the hands of the government and scientific advisers at the start of the pandemic cost lives.
The study, from the cross-party Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee, said preparation for a pandemic was far too focused on flu, and that ministers waited too long to go into lockdown.
Former chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies told MPs there was “groupthink”, with infectious disease experts not believing that “Sars, or another Sars, would get from Asia to us”.
Quizzed on the timing of the initial lockdown, Barclay added that the government was acting on the scientific advice at the time and that there was a concern that people would be unwilling to follow a lockdown if it was implemented too soon.
“It was an unprecedented pandemic, we were learning about it as we went through and of course with hindsight there’s things we know about it now that we didn’t know at the time,” he said.
Barclay also praised the vaccine rollout and claimed “we protected the NHS from a surge of cases”. He said the government would examine the full report and examine whether there are lessons to learn but the report said the “decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic – and the advice that led to them – rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.
With that in mind, responding to his question dodging, people were outraged:
The report also determined that the government followed an indirect herd immunity policy and that experts and ministers sought to “only moderate the speed of infection” through the population – flattening the curve – rather than seeking to stop its spread altogether.
It also slammed the government’s test and trace policy and criticised the government for failing to test people leaving hospitals to care homes at the early stages of the pandemic. However it praised the vaccine rollout and said hospital treatment plans had been effective.