Boris Johnson’s government has been “probably slow” in its early response to the coronavirus, said Tony Blair.
the former prime minister also told Sky News that he “sees no way out” of the COVID-19 locking without mass public testing.
This comes as his Tony Blair Foundation for Global Change presented a possible exit plan to soften the coronavirus restrictions introduced last month.
Blair, who was in office from 1997 to 2007, said the epidemic was “the most complicated and difficult challenge I have ever seen in politics.”
And he said his intention to publish a possible exit strategy was made in the spirit of offering “constructive advice” to Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Blair’s plan includes:
- Mass audience test, “including community strength development” to assist in the process
- Ensure “large scale acquisition and production of masks” for front line staff
- Regarding the development of a vaccine, the report calls for “the use of all means at national and global levels to identify treatments that can reduce the severity of the disease”
- Once new cases drop dramatically, UK may consider easing restrictions by opening schools first
- Age segmentation could be implemented, young people at higher risk being much less likely to return to work earlier
- In his interview with Sky, the former Prime Minister suggested entrusting to a superior minister specific elements of the COVID-19 response, such as the supply of personal protective equipment and mass tests
Blair’s contribution comes as the government faces questions about its rapid response to COVID-19.
Sunday Times investigation says ministers missed a series of opportunities to mitigate the impact of the virus in the weeks before the lock was introduced.
The document highlighted the fact that Johnson did not attend the first five emergency meetings on the eve of the UK coronavirus outbreak – which was confirmed to Sky News in early March.
His investigation claimed that the ministers ignored the disastrous warnings from scientists – and the UK has lost “five crucial weeks in the fight against the dangerous threat of the coronavirus despite its dangerously poor pandemic preparedness.”
Government whistleblowers, scientists and emergency planners alleged that the government was complacent in late January and February, when it should have urgently replenished the stocks.
This provoked a furious response from Downing Street, with ministers taking the airwaves and using Twitter to defend Mr. Johnson’s response.
And in an unusual move, Number 10 posted a 2,000 word rebuttal try to separate the claims one by one.
He described elements of the Sunday Times report as “manifestly false” and “ridiculous”.
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Asked about the criticisms leveled at the Prime Minister and his best team and the fairness of his candidacy, Mr. Blair replied: “This is an extremely difficult challenge, there has never been anything like it .
“It will be very easy to come back and say,” Well, you could have done this and you could have done that. By the way, it will happen whether I think it should or not.
“But I just think it’s important … right now, that shouldn’t be the focus of our attention.
“Our attention should be focused on ensuring that the next phase, the controlled and managed recovery of the economy, proceeds in the best possible way. “