MP suggests government’s dire warnings about resurgence of COVID-19 are “exaggerated”
DUP’s Sammy Wilson accuses Boris Johnson of using “scare tactics” to push forward new restrictions announced on Tuesday
PM, who nearly died from virus, responds “look at what’s already happened in pandemic”
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), the DUP’s Sammy Wilson suggested the government’s dire warnings about the resurgence of COVID-19 have been “exaggerated” – something denied by Johnson.
On Monday, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, issued a series of warnings about the virus, saying it is doubling every seven days and that if this continues unabated, there could be just under 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October.
It was followed on Tuesday with Johnson announcing a raft of new measures – such as encouraging office staff to work from home, pubs closing at 10pm and wedding attendance being cut from 30 to 15 – that are set to last for six months.
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Wilson told Johnson at PMQs on Wednesday: “Only time will tell whether the predictions made this week by the medical advisers about deaths and infections of coronavirus have any credibility – or whether they are as exaggerated as claims there would be half a million deaths within weeks made at the beginning of the year.
“What is not in dispute, however, is that the scare tactics being used and regulatory actions taken will have an immediate impact on high streets, the hospitality industry, and further devastation for the aviation industry.”
Johnson, who six months ago nearly died from the virus, retorted: “He makes a powerful point of scepticism about the medical forecasts.
“All I can say is that everybody should look at what’s already happened in the first phases of this pandemic and be in no doubt that it is possible that such a thing could happen again. It’s precisely to avoid that, that we are taking the steps now.”
Among Sir Patrick’s other warnings on Monday were that an estimated 6,000 people a day are being infected and 70,000 currently have the virus.
He also said the UK is on the same course as Spain and France, which both saw second waves of infections translate into increased hospitalisations and deaths.
Dr Daniel Lawson, senior lecturer in statistical science at the University of Bristol, said on Monday following Sir Patrick’s warning of 50,000 infections: “The scenario is unlikely to come about. But we do need to pay attention to it anyway, because the public do need to take action to lower the infection rate and only some of this is achieved by policy – the rest is done by us.
“If we ignore this scenario, it could yet come about, or worse restrictions put in place instead.”