Piers Morgan and Alok Sharma have clashed over the UK government’s preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic in a fiery interview on Good Morning Britain (GMB).
Morgan seized an opportunity to question the business minister over the UK’s Covid death toll, which is one of the highest in Europe.
“If we were well prepared why do we have the worst death toll in Europe?” Morgan queried.
Sharma, the third minister to appear on the programme since the end of a 201-day government boycott, answered: “Based on what we knew at the time, of course the assessment was that the preparation was there.”
Referring to a comment by the health secretary about the virus being a low-risk, Sharma hit back: “The reality is that this pandemic developed very quickly and this is something that faced every single government across the world -”
“But other governments took different decisions,” interrupted Morgan, who spoke over the minister.
Sharma deflected the question, deciding to talk about the development of new mega-labs in the UK for coronavirus testing.
The government has come under heavy criticism over its response to the coronavirus outbreak with critics arguing ministers acted too slowly and ignored important scientific advice.
The comments come as a new National Audit Office report criticised a lack of transparency about the way emergency procedures were used to secure medical supplies and services in early 2020.
Ministers have been accused of creating a “fast track VIP lane” which allowed people in the Westminster bubble to recommend companies to receive “special treatment” by the government if they were supplying masks, gloves, aprons and other PPE during the pandemic.
Labour called it “appalling” with the chair of the Commons spending watchdog committee, Meg Hillier, commenting: “The high-priority lane is a real matter of concern and frankly I’m appalled because, even though I am an MP, the idea that I could recommend somebody or a company to go into that high priority lane is extremely suspect.
“There may be a few MPs with very specialist businesses who know a lot about something but really we’re not the people that, because we’re MPs, should be fast-tracking people for contracts.”
Twitter users were quick to chastise Sharma’s remarks.
Steve C commented: “YES I AGREE, EVERY SINGLE GOVERNMENT ACROSS THE WORLD!!! BUT NEARLY EVERY SINGLE GOVERNMENT ACROSS THE WORLD HAS DEALT WITH THE VIRUS MUCH BETTER THAN THE UK GOVERNMENT!!!”
Ken Marshall exclaimed: “Asleep at the wheel in January!”
One user, by the name Romany Romany, tweeted: “Great interview @piersmorgan showing incompetence of
@AlokSharma_RDG. Next @RishiSunak to answer why he’s leaving 3 million #Excludeduk taxpayers out of support scheme.”