Coronavirus: Minister defends timing of lockdown, saying ‘we reacted as quickly as we could’

A minister has rejected accusations that the government was too late in introducing the coronavirus lockdown.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News that “we absolutely followed the advice” provided by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on the COVID-19 pandemic.

His comments come after one SAGE member said the coronavirus lockdown was “too late” and “should have come in earlier”.

Wellcome Trust director Professor Jeremy Farrar was speaking during a hearing of the Health and Social Care Committee on Tuesday.

But Mr Shapps rejected this, telling Kay Burley @ Breakfast: “We reacted just as quickly as we could as that data was presented.”

He said that SAGE provides a “whole range of advice from very many different experts” but it is up to politicians to “make these delicate decisions about when measures are put in place”.

“If the accusation is that somehow it was delayed, that’s not the case,” Mr Shapps added.

“I was in those meetings and we moved as soon as the information was being presented to us.”

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, told the same hearing that ministers followed scientific advice with a “delay that was no more than you would reasonably expect”.

Professor Farrar’s comments echo the opinion of former SAGE member Professor Neil Ferguson.

He has claimed that 25,000 lives could have been saved by going into lockdown a week earlier.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the lockdown on 23 March to try and halt the spread of COVID-19.

An easing of restrictions began in June.

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