Britain could learn from Germany and South Korea on coronavirus response, expert says

19 May 2020, 23:02

Angela McLean said we can learn from other countries like Germany and South Korea
Angela McLean said we can learn from other countries like Germany and South Korea. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Britain could learn from the coronavirus responses in South Korea and Germany, particularly on contact tracing and testing, a top Government adviser has suggested.

Professor Dame Angela McLean, deputy chief scientific adviser, said she would draw “particular lessons” from the two countries when asked about what the UK has learnt from overseas.

Dame Angela said the UK is looking to emulate the contact tracing system in South Korea, which has been regarded as one of the most successful countries in controlling the virus.

An NHS track and trace app is currently being trialled on the Isle of Wight and the Health Secretary said it would be rolled out nationally in mid-May, but on Monday Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said could only say it would arrive “in the coming weeks”.

Dame Angela told the Downing Street press briefing: “It’s a very good point that we need to look to our near neighbours and also countries further away to learn what works and how long it takes to see if something is working or not working.

“The two I would draw particular lessons from would be South Korea, where I feel they’ve made inspiring use of all kinds of different contact tracing in order to control infection, to an extent that they are now down to a handful of new cases every day, and when they say new cases they mean people they have found in the community because of their contact tracing efforts.

Environment Secretary George Eustice also pointed to Denmark as an example of where schools can open in a “socially distanced way”
Environment Secretary George Eustice also pointed to Denmark as an example of where schools can open in a “socially distanced way”. Picture: PA

“I think that is an experience that we are aiming to emulate.”

As ministers continue to face criticism over testing shortages, she added: “The other country I would look to is Germany, where the importance of testing has always been so clear and that is a place from where we have learned that we need to grow our testing facility, and have grown our testing facility.

During Tuesday’s briefing Environment Secretary George Eustice also pointed to Denmark as an example of where schools can open in a “socially distanced way”.

He made the remark as he denied that the Government has a political motivation for suggesting some school years could return next month amid a deepening row over plans for primary schools to reopen to some pupils from 1 June.

He said the nordic nation has “demonstrated how it is possible in fact to bring schools back into opening, albeit in a socially distanced way, albeit with fewer pupils initially and staggering the times that year groups arrive and so on”.

“Other countries have demonstrated ways that this can be done. I think it is important we learn from those other countries and that’s exactly what we are trying to do.”

It came as new Office for National Statistics figures published on Tuesday suggested that the UK’s true virus death toll could now have topped 44,000, with about a quarter of those in care homes.

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