Minister Denies Tens Of Thousands Of People Died Unnecessarily During Pandemic
A senior minister has said Dominic Cummings was wrong to claim that tens of thousands of people died unnecessarily as a result of the government's handling of coronavirus.
Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government insisted Cummings was incorrect when challenged about the claim on Thursday.
"You have to remember we didn’t have all of the facts at the time the decisions were being taken," Jenrick told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"Nobody could doubt for a moment that the Prime Minister was doing anything other than acting with the best of motives with the information and advice that were available to him.
"We learned a lot as we went along the road".
Jenrick was responding to an extraordinary, seven-hour evidence session on Wednesday during which Cummings, the former chief aide to Boris Johnson, made a series of damning allegations about the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But Neil Ferguson, epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said it was "unarguable" that many lives would have been saved had Johnson imposed the first nationwide lockdown a week earlier.
“I’ve gone on record before to say had we locked down a week earlier we would have saved half of the lives. That was much earlier in the pandemic and equates to about twenty to thirty thousand lives," he told Today.
"The epidemic was doubling every three to four days between 13th-23rd March. If we had moved those interventions back a week we would have curtailed that and saved many lives”.
Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, said Cummings' evidence to MPs showed why there must be a public inquiry into the government's handling of the coronavirus now, not next year as currently planned.
“The point is that Dominic Cummings shouldn’t have the final word on this," she told Today.
"Dominic Cummings has made serious allegations as someone who was in the room at the time and therefore the public have a right to know the answer to these questions”.
Jenrick however insisted that 2022 was "the right moment" to assess the government's pandemic response "in a calm and reflect manner with all of the evidence".
"Of course Dominic is free go give his side of the story which is what you heard yesterday but we will be setting out our version of events when it comes to the full public inquiry next year," he said.
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