Donald Trump claims UK’s initial coronavirus strategy would have been ‘very catastrophic’
The US President took aim at the UK’s early handling of the Covid-19 outbreak.
3 min read
Britain faced “very catastrophic” results until it shifted its strategy to tackle the coronavirus, Donald Trump has declared.
The US President - whose own country this week overtook China in its number of deaths from coronavirus - said the UK had “put themselves in a little bit of a problem” with its original plan to tackle Covid-19.
Britain initially did not order the closure of schools and ban mass gatherings in line with other European countries, although strict lockdown measures have been imposed in recent weeks.
The Government also came under fire after the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said in a television interview that “probably around 60%” of the country’s population would need to become infected for the UK to develop "herd immunity" from future outbreaks.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock later said: “Herd immunity is not our goal or policy.”
But the use of the phrase prompted criticism of the way the Government has communicated its plans to the public.
Speaking at a White House press conference, Mr Trump said: "A lot of people were saying: 'Let's just ride it out'.
"This is not to be ridden out because then you would have been looking at potentially 2.2 million people [dying in the US] or more… in a relatively short period of time.
"If you remember, they were looking at that concept - I guess it's a concept if you don't mind death, a lot of death - but they were looking at that in the UK, remember.
"All of sudden they went hard the other way because they started seeing things that weren't good. They put themselves in a little bit of a problem."
The US president added: "They have a name for it, but we won't even go by the name - it would have been very catastrophic I think if that would have happened."
The briefing also saw Dr Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, take aim at the UK’s fight to secure ventilators needed to treat people suffering from the disease.
She said: "We are worried about groups all around the globe. I don't know if you heard the report this morning, there are 8,000 ventilators in the UK.
"If you translate that to United States, that would be like the United States having less than 40,000 ventilators. We have five times that."
President Trump claimed last week that Boris Johnson had opened a phone call with him by pleading with the US to provide ventilators to the UK, although a Downing Street readout of the conversation made no mention of the request, saying only that the two leaders had “agreed to work together closely ... to defeat the coronavirus pandemic”.
The comments from the White House aide came as Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said British-made ventilators would be available for use in UK hospitals from next week.
Mr Gove said the units would be "rapidly distributed" to hospitals around the country to help save the lives of seriously-ill Covid-19 sufferers.
He spoke out as the latest figures from the Department of Health revealed the largest daily rise in the number of UK deaths from Covid-19.
A total of 1,789 people have now died from the illness, an increase of 393 on the previous 24 hours.
The number of people who have died in the US after testing positive for coronavirus has meanwhile risen to more than 3,800 - overtaking the 3,305 reported deaths in China, where the Covid-19 outbreak began.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe