Govt urged to ‘admit mistakes’ over handling of coronavirus

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LONDON: The British government, headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has been urged to admit to what generally is being called “mistakes” made during its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a Yahoo report, Jill Rutter, programme director at the Institute for Government think tank, said Boris Johnson’s administration should “treat the public like grown-ups”. Her comments followed a report in the Sunday Times which accused the government of dithering in its response to the coronavirus crisis and reported that the prime minister missed five key Cobra meetings.

On Monday, the Department of Health rejected several of the newspaper’s claims in a 2,000-word rebuttal. But instead of spending time refuting reports, Rutter said the government would make a better use of its time by conceding it has made mistakes. Health secretary Matt Hancock has repeatedly asserted that the UK was well-prepared for the pandemic.

Jill Rutter

On Sunday, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, used the government’s daily coronavirus briefing to controversially claim that the UK has been an “international exemplar in preparedness”, despite ongoing anger over a lack of Covid-19 testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.

“This sort of defensiveness creates no hiding place for government. It would do much better if it treated the public like grown-ups, able to understand that this is very difficult and that mistakes will be made”, said Rutter in a blog post..

“It is much more convincing and reassuring for ministers to say that they will learn from mistakes, rather than refusing to acknowledge that any have been made.”

She said the UK government could learn from French president Emmanuel Macron, who used a speech last week to admit his country was not prepared for the pandemic. “The general line has been that everything is going as well as it could be, and the UK is – to quote the deputy chief medical officer – an ‘international exemplar’, and any criticism is out of bounds,” said Rutter.