Piers Morgan has criticised a minister who said it was ‘too early’ for international comparisons of the UK’s Covid death rate – but not over its vaccination drive – as he demanded answers for why the numbers were so high.
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said it was “just too early” to compare the UK’s death rate with those of other countries.
The Good Morning Britain host quizzed the minister about the country’s rapidly escalating coronavirus death rate – which was confirmed as the highest in the world on Monday – during an interview on the show.
Morgan asked: “Yesterday, the numbers came out and we’re the worst in the world, and given you’ve been using international comparisons for weeks now about the vaccines, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask you why we have the worst death rate in the world.”
Lewis responded by arguing there were “different things” to consider when analysing those figures and began veering off to talk about the UK’s vaccination programme.
Morgan interrupted the minister, pleading with him to answer the question.
“My question wasn’t about the vaccines,” Morgan said. “My question was given you talk about international comparisons all the time in relation to our vaccine performance, it is legitimate to ask you why we have the worst death rate. You can’t just pack that question away by saying we don’t want to get into international comparisons because you do when it suits you.”
When Lewis explained that every death was a “tragedy”, co-host Susanna Reid cut in: “Is it because we’ve got a failed isolation system? Is it because we’re not giving people enough money to isolate? Are there reasons in what you have done in the handling of this that have led to us being world-beating in our daily death rate?”
The minister responded: “The point I was making was today was that it is just too early do those kinds of comparisons,” adding: “I think viewers will understand you’ve got to look at these things after the fact.”
An increasingly irate Morgan shot back: “[It’s] very hard to work out how to stop people dying if you don’t have any reason for why they are all dying. Do you understand the problem?
“In order to stop so many people dying, and getting us lower down on that list [of Covid death rates], you’ve got to actually have a logical assessment and reason for why so many are dying.”
Lewis’ comments follow the release of data showing the UK’s seven-day Covid death average at 16.54 per million people, slightly ahead of the Czech Republic at 16.32 and yards ahead of countries like Andorra and Panama. The US and other major EU nations did not appear in the list of the top ten most affected countries.
As the interview wrapped up, Morgan explained: “I’ve tried. Viewers can make up their minds as to whether your response is adequate.
“Viewers won’t understand, they’ll just see you avoiding the question”.
“I haven’t avoided the question, I’ve been upfront with you, Piers,” insisted the minister.
“You can’t think of a single reason why so many people are dying in this country,” he responded.
“Love him or loath him,” Xian Pelaez wrote on Twitter, “Piers Morgan is an incredible interviewer. He doesn’t let people slip through his fingers and he pushes for an answer ALWAYS!”
Peter Chave pointed out: “Let me remind people once again that most if not all, of the countries that the UK death rate is worse than, have land borders with other countries. There is absolutely no excusing the slaughter in Britain.”
A very reasonable question that needs to be answered.
Probably associated with an unwillingness to learn from others that made more effective strategies
We voted these attitudes in, perhaps we have a responsibility to vote them out in due course? https://t.co/0mgylR1mif
— Chris Robionson (@ChrisRobionson) January 19, 2021
— Xian Pelaez (@xianpelaez98) January 19, 2021
Others disagreed with Morgan and Reid’s interviewing style.
Steve Robins wrote: “Painful to watch. No one has the chance to respond because they can’t get a word in edgeways. Awful!”