Lack of intelligence sharing between countries cost lives, says UK defence minister

PUBLISHED: 14:00 04 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:00 04 May 2020

Archive photograph of Boris Johnson visiting HMS Victorious with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace at HM Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, Scotland. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA.

Archive photograph of Boris Johnson visiting HMS Victorious with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace at HM Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, Scotland. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The defence secretary has claimed that more lives could have been saved if countries had shared more intelligence about the coronavirus.

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Appearing on Nick Ferrari’s LBC programme, Ben Wallace did not agree with fellow minister Grant Shapps’ claims that deaths could have been prevented if the UK had been quicker with testing.

But Wallace said that if the UK government had known about Covid-19 “from the outset” more lives could have been saved.

He did not agree with suggestions that it was a “country-by-country problem” despite the fact the UK was on-course to have the most deaths in Europe.

He said: “It came from the other side of the world and all of us have been learning on the job.


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“If we had known from the outset about the virus, of course more lives could have been saved. But I don’t think it is a country-by-country problem.”

He continued: “Let’s remember at the beginning of this, the problem with testing was not the people, it was the shortage of reagents. I was involved in ringing round my counterparts in Europe asking if they had the reagents and they too didn’t have the testing reagents.

“So it wasn’t as simple, unless your country already had its health service designed to be diagnostic-front heavy like Germany was, to pop up the testing immediately.

“Of course, testing globally would have improved all of our chances with understanding this virus because part of the epidemiology is informed by knowing who’s got it and how they respond. I think that has been a challenge.”

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