Public health expert tells James O'Brien why PM's coronavirus plan must change

13 March 2020, 12:24

By Fiona Jones

Public health expert slammed the government's coronavirus response and told James O'Brien what the Prime Minister should be doing instead.

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that the UK is now in the "delay" stage of the coronavirus action plan and admitted that "many more families will lose their loved ones" during this outbreak.

Public health expert Professor John Ashton branded Public Health England's communication as "appalling" and said the government are "really are coming at this in a narrow way" in their response to coronavirus.

He told James he'd expected to see the science that the government are drawing the national advice from being published and he has not.

James felt uneasy about this: "I haven't seen their workings. They've shown me their conclusion but they haven't shown me how they've got there. I'm slightly dismayed to hear you endorsing that."

"I absolutely do," Professor Ashton said, "in a period of three months, we've gone from Michael Gove saying we're fed up of experts to a position where we're saying these are the experts, you've got to do what they say.

"Actually you need a good dose of common sense in with what the experts say and lived experience on the ground."

READ MORE: Latest updates on coronavirus LIVE

Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke yesterday at a news conference inside 10 Downing St
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke yesterday at a news conference inside 10 Downing St. Picture: PA

He continued, "The problem is the government has lost trust and that's a disaster...[the public] haven't got trust because they feel as though they've been kept in the dark."

Professor Ashton said that if he were chief medical adviser or chief scientific officer, he would "get a good dose of community organisation into the equation about what should be happening. I would make sure all the data they've got is being made freely available across the country so people can see whether their region has a problem."

He said that people need to "own the decisions locally" and be empowered, through the data, to take charge of their areas.

Boris Johnson has proposed:

From Friday, if you have a persistent cough or fever, you must self-isolate for at least seven days.

Even if you only have mild symptoms of Covid-19, you are advised to stay home for at least seven days.

Anyone over 70 is advised against going on cruises and schools have been warned against international school trips

The government has not banned public gatherings, but is "considering" doing so to events such as sporting fixtures.

Schools have also not been suspended, as "scientific advice" has indicted that would do "more harm than good".