Critics have accused Boris Johnson of failing to take a lead on the UK response to the coronavirus. Labour had labelled him a “part-time” prime minister for waiting until next week to chair his first emergency Government meeting into the deadly global virus.
Meanwhile, the PM has claimed that tackling the spread of coronavirus is a “top priority”. He told reporters that he had met with the health secretary and chief medical officers to discuss the NHS’s preparations.
As you can imagine, the issue of coronavirus is something that is now the Government’s top priority.
I have just had a meeting with the chief medical officer and Secretary of State for Health talking about the preparations that we need to make.
His comments come after it was confirmed the first British national had died as a result of the disease. Wales and Northern Ireland also announced their first cases of coronavirus on Friday. There has reportedly been a sharp increase in the number of cases of Covid-19 in mainland Europe. This has prompted fears it’s only a matter of time before they start rising in the UK. However, Downing Street confirmed that a meeting to discuss the emergency response wouldn’t be convened until Monday.
The PM said advice from medical practitioners about regularly washing hands with soap and hot water for about 20 seconds remained the “most valuable” method of stopping the spread of coronavirus. But he said “further advice” from ministers wouldn’t be available until next week, including how the Government would deal with a further spread of the virus across the UK.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth was heavily critical of the decision to delay the meeting. He said:
Our part-time Prime Minister needs to get a grip of this escalating situation quickly.
It shouldn’t take another three days for this meeting to take place.
Moreover, former chancellow George Osborne has also criticised the prime minister’s response, saying:
The British Government now needs to go onto a ‘war footing’ with the coronavirus: daily NHS press briefings, regular Cobra meetings chaired by the PM, ministers on all major media shows
And Liberal Democrat acting leader Sir Ed Davey said:
With the NHS already so stretched, it’s gobsmacking that the Prime Minister has delayed chairing Cobra for so long.
Number 10 said officials from the Department of Health, Public Health England and other relevant departments were meeting on a daily basis to discuss the crisis. While Health Secretary Matt Hancock had been chairing a weekly Cobra meeting. It will now be stepped up to take place twice weekly.
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