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Coronavirus: Public approval of Government’s handling of crisis craters amid testing row

Public support for Boris Johnson's handling of the crisis has dropped (PA)

3 min read

The level of public approval for the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has dropped significantly this week amid an ongoing row over the levels of testing for the deadly disease.

It follows reports of rifts within Cabinet about how to lead the UK out of the crisis and anger from Number 10 at the NHS and Public Health England.

A survey by Opinium reveals that last week two-thirds of people approved of Downing Street’s actions, but this has now fallen to 52%. 

Meanwhile the number who disapprove has risen to 29%, giving the Government’s handling of Covid-19 a net positive score of +23%, a drop of almost half from the +42%  figure seven days ago.

Boris Johnson had been riding high in the polls in the first few weeks of dealing with the outbreak, but since he went into self-isolation last Friday after testing positive his administration has faced repeated questions over a perceived failure to test enough of the population.

While countries like South Korea and Germany have embarked on mass testing programs, the UK is failing to meet its own modest targets of 10,000 per day

And there had been anger over the responses to this criticism by Cabinet ministers Alok Sharma, Robert Jenrick and Dominic Raab, who had been filling in for Mr Johnson at the daily press briefings as he recovered in the flat above Number 11.

It led to Matt Hancock, fresh from seven days in self-isolation after he too had tested positive for Covid-19, having to announce a major new plan to test 100,000 people a day by the end of April when the health secretary spoke from the podium at Downing Street on Thursday.

But Adam Drummond from Opinium said the row shows “how soft the Government’s ‘rally around the flag’ effect is”.

He added: “While people naturally want to support efforts to handle the Covid-19 crisis and that will tend to translate into higher support for the government, it shows how conditional that support is and how vulnerable it is to any avoidable shortcomings on the government’s part.”

The poll also reveals confidence in the Government’s ability to handle the situation has dropped, while the numbers who do not think they acted fast enough have increased too.

And for the first time trust in the Prime Minister, Mr Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to has decreased.

It comes as reports in Sunday’s newspapers suggest Downing Street is angry at the NHS for allegedly failing to accept offers of help from the private and academic sectors to produce PPE and testing kits until the last few days.

And with the strict lockdown having a deadening effect on the economy, there are disagreements in Cabinet about when the measures can be lifted, with the Treasury wanting to go sooner, and health ministers wanting to hold off for much longer with deaths from the virus still yet to peak.

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