Ministers reject ‘like-for-like’ comparisons in virus response

Nicola Sturgeon backed ministers in London as both the Scottish and UK Governments defended their response to the coronavirus outbreak against claims they moved too slowly to impose lockdown measures.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the scale of the outbreak depended on each nation’s individual circumstances. Picture: Getty

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he rejected “like-for-like” comparisons with other countries, insisting the scale of the outbreak depended on each nation’s individual circumstances.

It came as public health experts warned that the death toll would continue rising for several weeks.

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On Sunday, the director of health research charity Wellcome Trust Sir Jeremy Farrar warned the UK was on course to be the worst affected country in Europe, with the 
trajectory of the death toll matching that of Italy.

At a briefing in Edinburgh, the First Minister said: “I don’t think it is possible to draw firm conclusions by comparing other countries right now.

“We need to make sure we compare like with like, population size and density.”

The UK now has more recorded deaths than any country except the US, Italy, Spain and France.

Asked at the daily Downing Street press conference whether the UK should have followed other countries in implementing lockdown measures sooner, Mr Raab said: “I don’t think it is clear, I don’t think those comparisons are like-for-like, because of, a, where we are on the curve... but also the individual circumstances in those countries.

“We will continue to monitor and we do monitor what’s going on in other countries and make sure we feed that in to what we’re doing here.”

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the UK would be looking to learn from other countries on how they approach releasing lockdown measures.

But Mr Vallance added: “It is very difficult to make those comparisons.

“I think there is a lot to learn from other countries in terms of what we need to do and we’re definitely looking very closely at other countries in terms of how they think about release of lockdown measures.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman maintained the UK was still on course to carry out the government’s pledge of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month as he said 18,000 had been conducted in the 24 hours to Sunday morning.

The spokesman said there had been “significant progress” in the attempt to improve testing of frontline NHS workers, with nearly 43,000 staff and their families tested so far.

The government also continues to face pressure over shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS staff, as a growing number of health workers died.

At the weekend, the Royal College of Nurses issued new guidance that nurses who could not get adequate PPE should, as a “last resort”, refuse to work.

Mr Raab said: “We understand the importance of getting PPE to the front line whether it’s in care homes or the NHS. I think the strongest practical reassurance they will want and that we can give them is that over the Bank Holiday weekend over 16 million items were delivered and we are straining every sinew to roll them out even further and even faster.”

On the final day of the Easter bank holiday weekend, Mr Raab admitted the government had been “concerned” that the public “might start ignoring the advice or cutting corners given the temptation to go out into the sunshine”.

But he added: “In fact the overwhelming majority of people stayed at home and understood the importance of doing so. By staying home this weekend, you’ve saved lives.”

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said the Prime Minister had tested negative for coronavirus on leaving hospital following his admission to an intensive care unit and would follow medical advice on when to return to work.

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