Question Time: Minister defends lockdown despite saying acting earlier 'would have saved more lives'

Tory MP Gillian Keegan on Question Time

Tory MP Gillian Keegan on Question Time - Credit: Twitter, BBC

A government minister has defended the government's decision to lock down when it did in March, despite saying that acting earlier "would have saved more lives".

Apprenticeships minister Gillian Keegan told Question Time that had the country locked down earlier and shut its borders then "we would have had a lower death toll for sure".

The minister also said the guidance back in March to discharge patients into care homes without a Covid test was "a catastrophic mistake".

"We had no testing to start with, we had to put it in place. We had not enough ventilators in hospitals, we had to get more," she told viewers as she defending the government's response to the pandemic.

"There were not enough staff in the hospitals, we had to get more. We had no history of testing and diagnostics in this country, we had to develop them.

"We had not enough PPE, and we were trying to buy PPE when everybody in the world was trying to buy PPE, we now have a big supply of PPE."

Asked by host Fiona Bruce if the policy to re-admit patients in care homes without a test was wrong, she answered: "If people went back into their care home without being tested, and that created – which I’m sure there are some examples of that – then, of course, that’s a catastrophic mistake."

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Keegan also said there was "no doubt" the government "could have locked everybody down, locked the border" from out outset of the pandemic, which she argued would have "for sure" resulted in a lower death toll.

But Keegan defended Boris Johnson's handling of the crisis. Asked if things should have been done differently from the start, the minister replied: "I don’t think so because the people looking at the data look at all the impacts.

"There are true costs and consequences to all of these decisions."

The UK has the highest death toll from coronavirus in Europe and one of the highest in the world. Just this week, officials confirmed Britain had reached the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths.

Reacting to Keegan's comment, Diederick Rave tweeted: "The highest death rate per 100K inhabitants and still claiming 'I don't think we've gone wrong necessarily'. Parallel world."

One user added: "Jeez!! When will just one of them accept responsibility and take ownership of this mess."

Another reflected: "To do anything other than apologise is poor. We will never know if we have watched 2000 turn to 100,000 through bad decisions or 250,000 drop to 100,000 through good decisions. We know our hindsight is more informed than our foresight and 100,000 is a dreadful number of souls."

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