Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Sage scientist says lockdown delay cost lives

Sunday shows round-up: Sage scientist says lockdown delay cost lives
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Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who has been advising the government throughout the Covid crisis, spoke to Andrew Marr this morning. Edmunds told Marr that, with the UK's official death toll having now passed 40,000, the UK should have locked down faster in retrospect:

AM: [Do] you have some regrets about some of your advice, about what you thought at the time?

JE: Yes. We should have gone into lockdown earlier. I think it would have been hard to do it... but I wish we had... I think that has cost a lot of lives unfortunately.

Matt Hancock - We made the right decisions at the right time

Marr was also joined by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, and asked him if he agreed with Edmunds' analysis of the situation. Hancock disagreed, arguing that the government has operated in line with the broad consensus of its Sage committee of advisers, of which Edmunds is a contributor:

MH: No. I think we took the right decisions at the right time, and [on Sage] there's a broad range... of scientific opinion, and we were guided by the science... That's the right way for it to have been done.

Protests are 'undoubtedly' a risk for spreading coronavirus

Hancock also told Ridge that he thought the recent protests that have taken place in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police force were irresponsible because of the likely health risk that they posed:

MH: It's undoubtedly a risk... The virus itself doesn't discriminate, and gathering in large groups is temporarily against the rules, precisely because it increases the risk of the spread of this virus.

Johnson's cabinets 'some of the most diverse' in history

Ridge asked Hancock about the racial diversity in the current cabinet. Hancock floundered a little on this question, being unable to name any black members attending cabinet since Kwasi Kwarteng was reshuffled to a new post in February:

SR: How many black people are there in the current cabinet?

MH: ...I think that Boris Johnson's got a very good record on this... And it's diversity of thought that's the really important thing...

SR: So are you saying then that people from black backgrounds shouldn't really worry... because you have diversity of thought?

MH: No, what I'm saying is that the cabinets that Boris Johnson [has lead] are some of the most diverse in the history of this country...

Lisa Nandy - I'm very proud of the protestors

Marr also spoke to the Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy. Unlike Hancock, Nandy was broadly supportive of the holding of anti-racism protests over recent days:

LN: It must be safe, people should social distance… but I’m very proud of those young people who are coming out and speaking up... [Racism] requires you to take an active stance against it. You cannot be silent in the face of racism and police brutality.

John Barnes - Some aspects of UK are as racist as US

The former England footballer and anti-racism campaigner John Barnes told Ridge that he felt the UK held some structural aspects of racism in common with the USA:

JB: [The UK] hasn't got a problem like the US in terms of policemen killing black people on the streets as we saw with the George Floyd fiasco. However, in terms of the disenfranchisement in the inner cities, of the black community not being given access to healthcare, social care, jobs, housing... In terms of how impactful it is, negatively on the black community, it's exactly the same.

Margaret Hodge - House of Commons debate 'just a nonsense'

And finally, the veteran Labour MP Margaret Hodge has criticised the organisation of debates in the House of Commons after arrangements have been made to restore voting and debating in person. As someone classified as vulnerable to Covid-19, Hodge told Ridge that she had little means of making her voice heard:

MH: Tomorrow there is a debate on virtual access, and I would like to virtually take part in that debate. I've been told I can't do that, so I am being disenfranchised... on a debate that is discussing my disenfranchisement... It's just a nonsense.