Coronavirus: "We need clarity on a daily basis" says Shadow Health Secretary

15 March 2020, 11:23 | Updated: 15 March 2020, 11:25

By Seán Hickey

There has been support across the political spectrum for the government's action against coronavirus but one area they fall down is communication, according to the Shadow Health Secretary.

Speaking about the hysteria that followed the news that those over 70 could be in quarantine for months, Shadow Secretary of State for Health Jonathan Ashworth told Iain Dale where the story came from.

"There was a very detailed briefing to a political journalist" Mr. Ashworth said. He shared with Iain that from the briefing, the revelation that "elderly people are going to have to be quarantined for three or four months" and through such news came a nationwide shock and worry from last night.

Iain pointed out that the Health Secretary Matt Hancock had to opportunity to clarify the government's stance this morning, whereby he outlined the government's intended plan which Mr. Ashworth believed to be "an entirely reasonable" set of instructions.

The point that the MP wanted to get across was the question of "why was something slightly more alarmist given to journalists"?

The shadow health secretary called for better communication on coronavirus policy
The shadow health secretary called for better communication on coronavirus policy. Picture: PA

Iain suggested that the government are trying to nudge the public into doing what is appropriate before the actions are made.

"They float these things with the idea of giving us the idea that we should be doing it anyway."

Mr. Ashworth accepted the possibility but admitted that he thinks "we need greater clarity", especially in terms of a breakdown of how the public should act. "We need an explain stage from government" he claimed.

"The NHS won't be able to cope if we all get it at the same time" Mr Ashworth said, referencing the possibility of a herd immunity effort. He told of how NHS workers have shared concerns, especially as "they don't have enough of the protective gear" to cope with an onslaught of infected people.

"Start giving us more details of what the planning is on the ground" the shadow secretary pleaded, to avoid a mass confusion of the public.