Sat, 2 December 2023

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Boris Johnson urged to reveal ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown after revelation he failed to attend key early coronavirus meetings

Boris Johnson is currently recovering from coronavirus at Chequers (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has been urged to reveal the “roadmap” for bringing the UK out of lockdown after accusations he was slow to act in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and senior Tory figures Iain Duncan Smith and David Davis have joined forces to call on the Prime Minister to set out how he will restart the economy once the outbreak is brought under contol.

It comes after a report suggested the Government wasted several weeks to prevent the spread of the disease, and that Mr Johnson missed the first five meetings of the emergency Cobra committee on Covid-19.

The death toll is now at 15,464 after a further 888 coronavirus deaths were announced on Saturday, with the country set to remain under strict social distancing rules for several more weeks.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Sir Keir said: "The Government was too slow to enter the lockdown.

"It has been too slow to increase the number of people being tested.

"It has been too slow in getting NHS staff the critical equipment they need to keep them safe. We need to make sure these mistakes are not repeated.

"Other countries have begun to set out a road map to lift restrictions in certain sectors of the economy and for certain services, especially social care, when the time is right.

"This of course must be done in a careful, considered way with public health, scientific evidence and the safety of workers and families at its heart. But the UK Government should be doing likewise."

Writing in the same newspaper Mr Davis, the former Brexit Secretary, said it is “now essential we take the brakes off the economy”.

And his views were echoed by the ex-Tory leader Mr Duncan Smith, who urged ministers to stop “patronising” the public and explain their plans to restart the economy so the public knows there is "life after lockdown".

It comes amid reports the PM, who is still convalescing at Chequers after suffering with the virus, has begun to take back control of the Government’s response.

According to the Sunday Telegraph while he recovers at his official country residence  Mr Johnson has been issuing orders to the First Secretary of State Dominic Raab, who is deputising for him in public, as well as his chief adviser Dominic Cummings and communications director Lee Cain. 

But a report in the Sunday Times says that he missed the five Cobra meetings on the preparations to combat the looming pandemic, which he left to be chaired by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

A Number 10 spokesman hit back, saying: "The Prime Minister has been at the helm of the response to this, providing leadership during this hugely challenging period for the whole nation.”

But the newspaper also quoted an unnamed senior Downing Street aide, who said: "There's no way you're at war if your PM isn't there.

"And what you learn about Boris was he didn't chair any meetings. He liked his country breaks. He didn't work weekends.

"It was like working for an old-fashioned chief executive in a local authority 20 years ago. 

“There was a real sense that he didn't do urgent crisis planning. It was exactly like people feared he would be."

A Downing Street spokesperson told the Sunday Times: "The Government has been working day and night to battle against coronavirus, delivering a strategy designed at all times to protect our NHS and save lives.

"Guided by medical and scientific expertise, we have implemented specific measures to reduce the spread of the virus at the time they will be most effective.

"Our response has ensured that the NHS has been given all the support in needs to ensure everyone requiring treatment has received it, as well as providing protection to businesses and reassurance to workers."

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