Piers Morgan confronts Matt Hancock and demands government comes clean over coronavirus


Piers Morgan has today taken Health Secretary Matt Hancock to task over his response to the coronavirus crisis and demanded a clear answer on whether there will be a China-style lockdown in Britain.

The Good Morning Britain host said he is ‘surprised’ about the lack of ‘dramatic action’ by the Government to stop the virus’ spread when a pandemic in the UK appears inevitable.

Mr Morgan said there was a danger Britain would fall behind in the fight as global coronavirus cases and deaths already far outnumber those during the 2003 SARS crisis.  

He told Mr Hancock today: ‘Surely it is now a time for the Government to accept this is when not if and start getting ahead of this by actually taking dramatic action’.

He added: ‘What surprises me is that there is a lot of talk about what we might do – but what we’re not doing is what the Chinese did is to go into effective lockdown – now why are we not doing that and what will it take to into similar territory?’

Piers Morgan questioned the lack of ‘dramatic action’ by the Government over coronavirus in a GMB interview with Matt Hancock today

The Health Secretary said that the 'scientific advice' is that a lockdown is unnecessary

The Health Secretary said that the ‘scientific advice’ is that a lockdown is unnecessary 

Mr Hancock said that while the crisis is ‘very concerning’ people should continue to live normal lives because the ‘scientific advice’ is that shutting down communities, schools and sporting events is not yet necessary. 

He added: ‘We have a clear plan that we are setting out today of how the country can get through this as well as possible. We are still in the phase very much where we are trying to contain this disease and working internationally and stop it becoming widespread throughout the whole county, as it has in other places. We are working very hard on that.

‘We are also setting out today the measures we might make, if it becomes more widespread… lots of them are things I am reluctant to do. But we will do them if the scientists think they will keep people safe. The aim here is to minimise the disruption… subject to keeping people safe and following that scientific advice’.   

Asked whether whether football matches could be stopped, he said they would keep the situation under review but that it was not appropriate to cancel games at this point. 

But he later conceded in an interview with BBC Breakfast that the UK ‘might have to’ cancel the London Marathon next month to prevent coronavirus spreading like wildfire.

The 26.2mile race is the largest mass-participation sporting event in the world involving 45,000 runners from around the globe and up to 1million spectators lining the capital’s streets.

But the April 26 event is in serious jeopardy because the chances of the coronavirus crisis developing into a global pandemic is now a ‘serious possibility’, Mr Hancock has said. 

He spoke out as the Government is set to publish a ‘battle plan’ for coping with a potentially major outbreak of the virus in the UK.

The Health Secretary said that while the London Marathon may have to be postponed, Britain is not planning to shut all schools or cancel all large sports events – but will bring in emergency legislation to ensure they can take action if needed.

He said: ‘Right now, we do not recommend the cancelling of mass events and schools as well should not be closing unless there is a positive case and the schools have the advice to close.

‘There maybe things we have to do down the line that we don’t want to, but we will need the powers to do that hence proposing emergency legislation’.

The huge number of spectators and runners at the London Marathon (pictured) could be a toxic mix if the number of coronavirus cases continue to increase, meaning it could be cancelled

The huge number of spectators and runners at the London Marathon (pictured) could be a toxic mix if the number of coronavirus cases continue to increase, meaning it could be cancelled

Mr Hancock also revealed that police will arrest people who are ill but refuse to self-isolate and the UK Border Force will be given greater powers to hold people at ports and airports if they are suspected of being ill.

He said: ‘At the moment if somebody is suspected of having coronavirus we can ask them to self isolate and if they don’t a police man can make that happen. We want to extend those powers to the border force as well’.

He said the number of home ventilation kits are being expanded and that ‘the NHS, I am sure, will rise to the challenge’ of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

On whether the NHS would be able to cope if the virus reaches pandemic level, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘A lot of people, not least because it is mild, will be best off at home than in hospital so we are expanding the number of home ventilation kits that are available so that can be done.

‘The NHS, of course, has a full plan for this and prepares for this even when there isn’t an outbreak.

‘Inevitably in the case of this becoming widespread of course there will be much more pressure on the NHS, but the NHS is prepared for this sort of challenge.’  

Mr Hancock also said that for ‘most people who catch this virus, it’s relatively mild, and a bad cough’.

He said the number of home ventilation kits are being expanded and that ‘the NHS, I am sure, will rise to the challenge’ of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

On whether the NHS would be able to cope if the virus reaches pandemic level, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘A lot of people, not least because it is mild, will be best off at home than in hospital so we are expanding the number of home ventilation kits that are available so that can be done.

‘The NHS, of course, has a full plan for this and prepares for this even when there isn’t an outbreak.

‘Inevitably in the case of this becoming widespread of course there will be much more pressure on the NHS, but the NHS is prepared for this sort of challenge.’  

Boris Johnson took personal charge of handling the coronavirus outbreak last night and declared that Britain ‘will not be defeated’.

The PM had previously faced criticism for delegating the issue to Mr Hancock. 

Last night he gave his first major interview on the issue, in which he conceded Britain could be facing a ‘mass epidemic’, but insisted preparations were in hand.

The moves follow Labour claims that Mr Johnson was a ‘part-time prime minister’, an allegation that appears to have stung him. In recent weeks, he also faced major criticism for refusing to visit areas devastated by the February floods.

Officials yesterday said the PM had been receiving daily updates on the virus and holding twice-weekly meetings with Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty since January.But the jibes appear to have jolted No 10 into action to reassure voters that the PM has a grip on the situation. Yesterday he chaired his first emergency Cobra meeting on the matter after leaving Mr Hancock as chairman of the previous five.

In an interview with the BBC last night, Mr Johnson said the Government had taken ‘every possible precaution’ in its preparations for a possible outbreak – and said the NHS would get all the resources needed to handle an unprecedented challenge.

He said that today’s ‘battle plan’, which will include proposals to shut down mass gatherings if the situation worsens, was ‘intended to give people a sense of… the menu of options that we have to try to stop that expansion, that spread of the disease.’

He added: ‘The most important thing now is that we prepare against a possible very significant expansion of coronavirus in the UK population – that’s clearly on the cards. And I’ll just remind everybody what I’ve said for a while now: this country is very well-prepared, we have a fantastic NHS, we have a fantastic ability to conduct large-scale testing.’

The PM acknowledged that the UK was likely to have ‘thousands’ of cases of the virus in the coming months, although privately officials acknowledge that there could be millions in a worst case scenario.

Mr Johnson also warned that the disruption caused by people being off work would hit the economy. He said: ‘Something like a mass epidemic is going to have all sorts of consequences and there is always the potential for an economic downside as well… But don’t forget the fundamentals of the UK economy are very strong.’ He added: ‘I have absolutely no doubt that this country will not be defeated by coronavirus and that we will come through it very well, in the end.’

A ‘war room’ has been set up in the Cabinet Office to bring health and communications experts together ahead of a major public information campaign. Meanwhile, it emerged the UK is set to pull out of a European scheme for tackling virus pandemics.

Downing Street said the UK would look to develop alternatives to the Early Warning and Response System after the Brexit transition expires despite health experts and the NHS urging ministers to retain membership of the scheme.

 

 

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