Jeremy Hunt: 'We almost turned Chris Whitty into Secretary of State'

13 October 2020, 16:41

By Sam Sholli

Jeremy Hunt has told LBC the Government put too much pressure on Chris Whitty at the start of the Covid crisis by insisting the UK would "follow the science", almost turning him into a Secretary of State.

The Conservative MP made the comment a day after England's Chief Medical Officer warned that the highest level of restrictions under the nation's new three-tier lockdown system "will not by itself be sufficient to slow down coronavirus infections.

The three tiers - medium, high and very high - represent an attempt by Boris Johnson to, in his own words, "simplify and standardise" rules for implementing local lockdowns.

Speaking to Shelagh Fogarty, Mr Hunt said: "The first thing is I do think it's right that politicians decide and scientists advise.

"And in some ways I think we've put too much pressure on Chris Whitty at the start of this crisis by saying we're following the science, which almost turned him into the Secretary of State."

Talking about the new three-tier system more broadly, he added: "I think all I would say is that you just have to be prepared to change your mind. If it turns out that we haven't done enough, you've got to be prepared to change tack quickly in a pandemic."

Shelagh responded: "The harsh reality is trying and finding out is costing people their lives and it's about the time that you take to change your mind, isn't it?"

Mr Hunt replied: "I think that's a fair criticism if you look at some of the delays at the start of the pandemic.

But, as we just discussed now, if you have a real full-scale lockdown it can have a very big impact on ordinary NHS services."