“At each point we have been following scientific and medical advice and we have been deliberate in our actions - taking the right steps at the right time.”

Alok Sharma, Press Briefing

April 17, 2020

Facts

At a coronavirus press briefing, Alok Sharma said: “At each point we have been following scientific and medical advice and we have been deliberate in our actions - taking the right steps at the right time.”

The government has been widely criticised for its slow response to lockdown, which was introduced over 53 days after the initial outbreak. In particular, a crowded Cheltenham Festival was allowed to continue when other countries had already introduced strict lockdown measures. 

Countries which locked down earlier than the UK have already seen their case levels drop and had lower peaks than the UK. Of course, there are a number of factors that contribute to nations’ individual caseloads and death tolls - however, Professor Neil Ferguson, former scientific adviser to the government, said that the government could have saved 20,000 lives by locking down a week earlier.

Beyond lockdown, there can be little doubt the government failed to take the right measures at the right time. 

On the subject of testing, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance suggested his colleagues at Public Health England had failed to increase testing as quickly as was needed to control the spread of the virus. Speaking on ITV’s weekly “Coronavirus Q&A” show, Vallance admitted the rollout on testing had been too slow and added that it needs to go beyond only testing NHS workers but “to look at outbreaks and isolate”, as has been successful in places like Germany and South Korea. 

At the daily government press conference on 14 April, Prof Yvonne Doyle, from Public Health England, was far more honest in her appraisal of how the response had been handled, saying, "undoubtedly we perhaps could have done things differently." 

Verdict

Alok Sharma’s claim that the government had taken “the right steps at the right time” was contradicted by numerous credible sources. Including a subsequent damning parliamentary report.

PreviousNext