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Government ‘running around like headless chickens’ in battle against Covid-19

A FORMER chief scientific adviser condemned the government today for “running around like a bunch of headless chickens” in their attempts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Sir David King, who served under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said that from the outset Prime Minister Boris Johnson had lost a lot of time, despite receiving plenty of detail from China about Covid-19, in preparing a taskforce.

Such a body should have helped oversee the domestic manufacture of protective wear and ventilators that have been in short supply, as well as developing tests and extending testing capability, he said.

His criticism came as Mr Johnson returned to work after convalescing from the coronavirus for three weeks.

The PM told the media that he acknowledged frustrations — mainly from his own backbenchers — over the continuing lockdown imposed on March 23, but he insisted that he would not risk a second peak in the virus by relaxing restrictions too quickly.

He compared the disease to a mugger, saying: “This is the moment when we have begun, together, to wrestle it to the floor.”

Mr Johnson indicated that gradually lifting restrictions would depend on meeting five tests: “Deaths falling, NHS protected, rate of infection down, really sorting out the challenges of testing and PPE [personal protective equipment].”

Labour’s shadow work & pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth has said that mass testing and contact-tracing of Covid-19 is “nowhere near on track.”

The government estimated that 100,000 tests per day may be needed before the lockdown is lifted, according to scientific adviser Prof Peter Horby, who said tracking and tracing future coronavirus patients would be a “real logistical challenge.” The 100,000 figure is also Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s daily testing target by the end of the month.

British Medical Association chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said NHS staff need greater access to tests after slots offered online to key workers ran out within hours for the third day in a row on Sunday. “There is no point putting forward a proposal unless it’s matched with adequate capacity,” he said.

More than 10 million essential workers and their households are now eligible for Covid-19 tests at home or in drive-through centres. The Department of Health & Social Care said that patients and health and social-care workers had been prioritised for tests from the beginning of the testing regime and would continue to be.

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