Tory care minister Helen Whately has been accused of giving ‘wrong’ numbers of frontline coronavirus deaths during another ‘car crash’ interview.
Whately appeared on Good Morning Britain where she was quizzed by presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on the deaths of healthcare professionals in the NHS and the government’s target of reaching 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of April.
Former newspaper editor Morgan asked Whately if she knew the total number of staff deaths in hospitals and care homes across the country. When she responded with the incorrect number of ’61’, Morgan slammed the minister, saying: ‘These numbers again are completely wrong.’
Morgan then pointed to a screen showing the faces of deceased frontline workers and said: ‘The real figure of all the people who work in the NHS and care homes who have died is actually 111.
‘So, once again, you as a government are massively understating the scale of what is going on in terms of the death toll for our healthcare workers and of care homes workers.’
He continued: ‘I once again put to you as a care home minister, why are you not setting up a system that then allows you to give accurate information and treat everyone of these lives with the respect they deserve?’
Whately replied: ‘We are indeed setting up the systems to make sure we have accurate data.’
Taking to Twitter, one viewer said: ‘Another car-crash GMB interview. Don’t Care Minister @Helen_Whately. Seriously, why is she still in post?’
Another agreed: ‘Someone needs to throw the towel in for Helen. She gets destroyed every interview i’ve seen her in with Piers.’
A third wrote: ‘It’s unbelievable that months into the pandemic the government is only now setting up systems to make sure it has accurate data. Not fit for purpose is the only way to describe this government – lions lead by donkeys.’
Last week Whately was accused of ‘laughing’ while being asked about coronavirus deaths, in an interview some branded ‘uncomfortable’.
The government continues to face criticism for its handling of the PPE crisis as more hospital and care home staff are told to re-use protective equipment because of a shortage in the system. Ministers are also under fire after barely more than 18,000 coronavirus tests were carried out on Monday, well short of the target promised by the health minister Matt Hancock.