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No 10 rejects Cabinet minister’s claim coronavirus mistakes down to ‘wrong’ scientific advice

No 10 rejects Cabinet minister’s claim coronavirus mistakes down to ‘wrong’ scientific advice

Therese Coffey said she and colleagues had followed expert guidance 'every step of the way' (Sky News)

2 min read

Downing Street has sought to distance itself from the claim by a Cabinet minister that any mistakes made in the coronavirus response are down to "wrong" scientific advice.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said “scientists advise, ministers take decisions, and that's how Government works” when quizzed over comments by Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey.

The Cabinet minister said her colleagues had followed the guidance of experts "every step of the way" in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But asked with "hindsight" if the Government had made errors in its approach, Ms Coffey told Sky News: “You can only make judgements and decisions based on the information and the advice you have at the time.

"If the science was wrong, if the advice at the time was wrong, I am not surprised if people think we made the wrong decision."

Her comments came as Sir Adrian Smith, the incoming president of the Royal Society, urged ministers not to claim they were "simply doing what scientists tell us”.

But asked about the secretary of state’s suggestion, Number 10 said: "The Prime Minister is hugely grateful for the hard work and expertise of the UK's world-leading scientists, we've been guided by their advice throughout and we continue to do so.

"Scientists provide advice to the Government, ministers ultimately decide."


The PM's official spokesman also refused to back the US President Donald Trump’s decision to start taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to ward off coronavirus.

He said: "It's not something which our own medical experts are recommending."

Asked whether Mr Trump was setting a bad example, the spokesman added: "I can only set out what the UK's advice is. It's not something that we recommend doing."

And he also said the UK would no plans to stop funding the World Health Organisation after America threatened to permanently cut their funding to the agency commits to "substantive improvements" in the next 30 days.

The PM’s spokesman said: "Coronavirus is a global challenge and it is essential that countries come together to tackle this shared threat.

"The World Health Organisation has an important role to play in leading the global health response."

He said the UK had "long been an advocate of reform” for the international body, adding: "But we have no plans to stop funding the WHO.”

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