Coronavirus: We’d have done some things differently with benefit of hindsight, government minister says

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Jon Stone
·3 min read
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<p>Communities secretary Robert Jenrick</p> (Sky News)

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick

(Sky News)

The government's coronavirus response should "almost certainly" have been different "with the benefit of hindsight", a minister has admitted.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick also insisted that ministers took "the right decision at the right time" and "everything that we could to protect people's lives".

It comes after the UK passed the grim milestone of 100,000 official deaths since the start of the pandemic. Britain has the worst death toll in Europe and is suffering from one of the highest rates in the world in both per capita and absolute terms.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is later today due to unveil further border restrictions to keep new strains from coming to the UK – measures she has admitted she wanted to introduce at the start of the outbreak.

"We took the decisions that we could at the time on the basis of the information that was available to us," Mr Jenrick told Sky News when asked about the government's record.

"And we did everything that we could to protect people's lives and help to weather the storm, and take the country through this very challenging period.

"There is no textbook as to how to respond to a pandemic like this, but we do believe that we took the right decisions at the right time."

Speaking on the BBC, the minister added: "I'm sure that we could or would have done some things differently with the benefit of hindsight, almost certainly."

The government has been variously criticised for failing to impose the first March lockdown quickly enough, telling people not to wear masks, lifting the first lockdown too quickly, failing to establish a working test and trace system, subsiding meals to encourage people back into restaurants, failing to impose a circuit-breaker lockdown in September, lifting the November lockdown too early, relaxing restrictions for Christmas, being slow to close schools in January, and generally communicating poorly with the public and taking chaotic last-minute decisions .

Mr Jenrick also announced that Boris Johnson would set out a roadmap for reopening schools in the coming days, to "give people greater confidence and certainty".

The minister indicated a return to the tier system was on the cards, suggesting that "it's sensible that we target restrictions on those places where the virus is most prevalent".

But Labour criticised the government for failing to impose strict measures soon enough. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the government had "failed".

"We should have had comprehensive border controls in for the past year," he told the BBC.

"Priti Patel and Boris Johnson, they tell us they want to take control of their borders, but the one time it actually mattered, and they needed to take control of our borders to protect us, they failed.

"I would urge the Government to look at a comprehensive policy, not just the hotspots, because remember, there will be areas or countries across the world where there are mutations which haven't been identified yet because they don't have the same level of scientific ability."

Boris Johnson on Tuesday afternoon said he was sorry for the death toll and took full responsibility for it as prime minister.

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