Katy Balls

Coronavirus comparisons with Germany are premature, deputy chief medical officer warns

Coronavirus comparisons with Germany are premature, deputy chief medical officer warns
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The daily government press conference had a familiar theme today: politicians and advisers struggling to answer questions on the scale of coronavirus testing in the UK. Michael Gove and deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries both spoke of the importance of testing, but struggled to explain what they plan to do to stop the UK lagging behind countries in Asia, as well as Germany, when it comes to testing.

Gove suggested there was a shortage of the relevant 'chemical reagents' while Harries said the focus – given current capacity – was rightly on testing of NHS staff. There was good news in terms of the number of ventilators with Gove promising that thousands of new ventilators are to be delivered to the NHS in the next week. One of the frustrations within government is that UK industry is better placed to assist with ventilators than tests, whereas in Germany industry has been able to assist with testing easily. 

The most illuminating moment of the press conference came when Harries tried to warn against comparisons between the UK and Germany this early on. She said Germany's testing regime had been 'skewed' towards younger people who have been disproportionately infected but this could well change:

'We will not be able to answer this question, to be honest, until right at the end of the outbreak. If we look back in a year's time, we will be able to compare who we tested, what the demographic of the population was, how many people of what age, the different geographies and the different testing principles, but it is not possible to do that at the moment.'

While there is an appetite for comparisons and answers now, clarity on how each country has fared will likely come much later down the line.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor. She is also a columnist for the i paper.

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