UK lead candidate Sunak attacks COVID lockdown response

UK lead candidate Sunak attacks COVID lockdown response
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  • Former finance minister says downsides of lockdowns have been quashed
  • Sunak says scientists have been given too much power
  • Prime Minister’s candidate says government tried to scare public

LONDON (Reuters) – Former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, one of two candidates vying to be Britain’s next prime minister, has criticized the way outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been handling the COVID-19 pandemic, saying , it was a mistake to “empower”. “Scientists and that the downside of lockdowns has been suppressed.

The ruling Conservative Party is electing a new leader after Johnson was forced to resign when dozens of ministers resigned in protest at a series of scandals and missteps. Party members vote to select either Sunak or Secretary of State Liz Truss, who will take over next month.

Opinion polls show that Sunak is behind in the race. Dealing with the pandemic has become a problem. Truss said this month she would never authorize another lockdown again, also claiming that as then Trade Secretary she was not involved in key decisions about the response.

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Sunak said the government was “wrong to scare people about the coronavirus”. He said he was blocked by officials in Johnson’s office from discussing the “compromises” in imposing coronavirus-related restrictions, such as increasing the number of people in the country. B. the impact on missed doctor’s appointments and the lengthening of waiting lists for healthcare in the state’s National Health Service.

“The script should never give her credit,” he told Spectator magazine. “The script was, ‘Oh, there’s no compromise because doing this for our health is good for the economy’.”

Sunak said scientists at the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, the group that has helped respond to the outbreak, have been given too much leverage by ministers on decision-making like closing schools and kindergartens.

Sunak said his requests for the underlying modeling were ignored early in the pandemic when he was presented with scenarios by scientists about what would happen if lockdowns weren’t imposed or extended.

Sunak said it was unfair to blame officials because ministers are elected to make decisions.

“If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed,” he said.

Sunak himself was widely popular at the start of the pandemic for, as then finance minister, he launched a furlough scheme that kept many people on the payroll even when lockdowns prevented them from working.


When asked why opinion polls showed that the public was anxious that the country was in lockdown, Sunak said: “We helped shape that: with the fear message”.

Sunak said it was wrong for the government to release posters showing patients on ventilators and claimed the Cabinet Office was “very upset” when he delivered a speech in September 2020 urging people “to go without fear.” Life”.

Britain under Johnson was slower to lockdown than most of its European peers in early 2020. After suffering some of the highest death rates early in the pandemic, it later became one of the first major economies to reopen.

When asked about Sunak’s remarks, a government spokesman defended his record on COVID, saying the economy and children’s education are central to the difficult decisions being made during the pandemic.

Sunak, who resigned from Johnson’s government last month, suggested schools could have stayed open during the pandemic. He said during a meeting he tried to express his opposition to the closure of schools and said he “got very emotional about it”.

“After that, there was great silence,” he said. “It was the first time anyone said that. I was so angry.”

The lockdown “could have been shorter” or had a “different” approach, he said.

A public inquiry looking at the government’s preparedness, public health and economic response to the pandemic is expected to begin hearing evidence next year.

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Reporting by Andrew MacAskill Editing by Kate Holton and Frances Kerry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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