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No Apology From UK Cabinet Minister for 'Following the Science' on COVID-19

© REUTERS / PETER NICHOLLSCabinet meeting at Downing Street in London
Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.10.2021
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is seeking to deflect criticism from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee by pointing out its COVID-19 strategy followed the counsel of its top medical and scientific advisors.
,British Cabinet Office Minister Stephen Barclay has refused to apologise for the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sky News presenter Kay Burley pressed Barclay in a Tuesday morning interview to say sorry in the wake of a Parliamentary report critical of policy early in the epidemic last year.

"We followed, throughout, the scientific advice. We got the vaccine deployed extremely quickly, we protected our NHS from the surge of cases", Barclay insisted. "Of course, if there are lessons to learn we're keen to do so".

When Burley pressed the minister a second time for an apology, he dug in and reiterated his position.

"Well no, we followed the scientific advice, we protected the NHS, we took the decisions based on the evidence before us", Barclay said.

"But of course, we've always said with something so unprecedented as the pandemic, there will be lessons to learn, we're keen to learn them."
The report by the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee released on Tuesday morning blamed "groupthink" among public health officials for decisions taken early on in the outbreak which it says led to thousands more deaths. They include waiting until early March 2020 to impose the first national lockdown.
Barclay admitted he had not yet had a chance to read the report, but said the lockdown decision was "based on the scientific advice at the time".

"I think there was rigorous debate in government with [the] science. But of course it was unprecedented, so it was a developing picture for the scientists themselves," he said.

People pass signs indicating the entrance to the London Bridge Vaccination Centre in London on August 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.10.2021
UK MPs' Inquiry: Thousands of Deaths 'Could Have Been Avoided' During COVID Pandemic
Opposition Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, who continues to trail Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the polls, called the report a "damning indictment".

“The Prime Minister should take responsibility because the responsibility is his, and he should apologise", Starmer told Sky News on Tuesday afternoon.

Former Downing Street advisor Dominic Cummings, who testified to the committee's inquiry, called both Johnson and Starmer a "joke".
Throughout the pandemic the opposition demanded the government "follow the science".
But Johnson has been flanked at his Downing Street press briefings by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, the architects of the the government's response along with the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
Earlier this year, Johnson said he took "full responsibility for everything that has happened," adding he was "truly sorry" for the nation's suffering.
The UK's death toll to date from the virus is 137,763 from a total of 8,193,769. Over 49 million people have been vaccinated against the disease, including around 95 per cent of over-65s — the most vulnerable age range.
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