Jeremy Corbyn briefed on herd immunity by government during early days of coronavirus outbreak

Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Hollie Adams/PA

Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Hollie Adams/PA - Credit: PA

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was given a 'lecture' on herd immunity by government officials in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking on the A World to Win podcast, the former Labour leader said he and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth attended a Cabinet Office meeting where the idea of herd immunity was discussed, which he branded as 'absurd' and an 'eugenic formula' based on 'allowing people to die'.

'I distinctly remember Jon Ashworth and I going to a meeting at the Cabinet Office where we got a lecture about herd immunity,' he told host Grace Blakeley.

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'The last time I discussed herd immunity had been when I worked on a pig farm 40 years ago. It was absurd: that you'd build up herd immunity by allowing people to die. And so, while the government was going into eugenic formulas of discussing all this stuff, they were not making adequate preparations.'

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He also said that knowledge the UK was unprepared for a pandemic had been 'mooted' as early as 2008 following a Whitehall investigation.

Corbyn went on to claim that Boris Johnson 'didn't want to introduce the furlough scheme' in a meeting between the two shortly after the outbreak and said that 'robust' pressure from former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and trade unions had helped secure financial support for workers.

A government spokesperson said: 'It is categorically wrong to suggest herd immunity was the government's aim. Our goal is to reduce the impact of coronavirus — protecting the most vulnerable and ensuring our NHS and social care system has capacity to cope while leading the world on scientific research into therapeutics and a vaccine.'

Corbyn used the interview as a platform highlight how the coronavirus had 'exposed and writ large' the 'inequalities in our society'.

Reflecting on his time as leader, Corbyn said his proudest moment was an apology he gave on behalf of the Labour Party to military families for the 'wrong and illegal Iraq war', Labour's 2019 manifesto being rated the greenest by Friends of the Earth and developing an 'economic agenda that is radically different'.

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