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George Eustice was left squirming as he was challenged about the Government’s ongoing strategy to keep the spread of the coronavirus under control. Sky News host Kay Burley pointed out the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had warned about the death rate rising again and advised Boris Johnson on how best to contain the risks. Ms Burley challenged the Environment Secretary on why the advice was not heeded, saying: “SAGE, I think I’m right in saying, did advise the Government on September 21 that, unless stronger action was taken in the form of a national lockdown, we’d be seeing 200 deaths a day by mid-November.
“We’re way past that already. How concerned are you?
“And, really, should you not have listened to SAGE when they told you?”
Mr Eustice insisted the Government scientific advisers had set out several potential solutions to clamp down on the spread of COVID-19, and the Prime Minister had opted for localised lockdowns due to the uncertain effect of a new national shut down.
He said: “We did listen to SAGE. And I read that SAGE advice at the time and they set out a range of options.
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“One of them was a circuit breaker lockdown for a couple of weeks, where we had a complete lockdown across the country.
“They themselves ventured that the impact of that would be uncertain. We know what lockdown did in March and April as we were going into the Spring and Summer months but it was less certain what it would as a short-term blocker.
“And there would also be many other impacts they also acknowledged. So they set out a range of different options and we did follow some of those in the end.
“We followed the three-tiered approach we’ve taken now with more localized lockdowns where we’ve got hotspots. And I think that’s the right way to approach it.”
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