UK govt accused of slow response to virus outbreak

by David Harding / Joe JACKSON

The new leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour party on Wednesday accused the government of being slow in its coronavirus response, as lawmakers met for a virtual session in parliament.

In his first chance to quiz ministers since being elected leader earlier this month, Keir Starmer said there was “a significant gap between promise and delivery” in the handling of the crisis.

The government is facing increased scrutiny of various aspects of its response, from ordering social distancing measures weeks later than European neighbours to its provision of safety equipment to frontline health workers.

“There’s a pattern emerging here: we were slow into lockdown, slow on testing, slow on protective equipment,” Starmer said, as he also questioned Britain’s sluggish testing regime.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers after being hospitalised for COVID-19, insisted ministers had been guided by scientific and medical advisers “at every step along this way”.

“I don’t accept his premise that we’ve been slow,” he said.

“If he thinks he knows better than they do, with the benefit of hindsight, then that’s his decision. But that is not the way we’ve proceeded.” (AFP)