The Department of Health has challenged tweets criticising the government’s coronavirus response as it reposted the same message to a number of people.
A series of Twitter users have accumulated thousands of likes and retweets in posts attacking the government’s plan to fight the virus’s outbreak.
Countries around the world have been shutting down schools, mass events and businesses as they try to stop the spread.
But the UK is yet to take these measures, with the government insisting it is using expert guidance to effectively respond to the virus.
The Department of Health’s Twitter account has spent a lot of Thursday afternoon responding to five accounts carrying criticism of its plans.
A Newsnight tweet carrying an interview with former regional public health director John Ashton, in which he described the UK as having a “complacent attitude” and the NHS not having “enough hospital beds” was the first to be responded to.
Our response to #coronavirus follows an evidence-based assessment of what is happening in this country.
We follow expert guidance from @CMO_England and @UKScienceChief.
Any new measures we take must be implemented at the right time to ensure they are effective.
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) March 12, 2020
It then sent the same tweet to the Lancet medical journal editor Richard Horton, who claimed Boris Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock were not “following the science”.
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The same message was also tweeted to a user who said he is an NHS doctor. He criticised a photo of crowds packed into a racecourse by saying the event should have been shut down and blasted the government as “weak, toothless”.
The UK government—Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson—claim they are following the science. But that is not true. The evidence is clear. We need urgent implementation of social distancing and closure policies. The government is playing roulette with the public. This is a major error.
— richard horton (@richardhorton1) March 10, 2020
NHS doctor here. The levels of fear of our brave nursing staff having to face this imminent wall of death. And these events are still going in. I cannot believe it. And feel ashamed to have a country of weak toothless, compromised leadership. https://t.co/VQMuf04OnY
— Andrew Apps (@apps_andy) March 10, 2020
Richard Murphy, professor of international political economy at the University of London, whose economic ideas were taken up by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said coronavirus testing was low.
James Melville, who contributes to the Byline Times, said “every single country” is starting to lock down schools, travel and major events and compared that to punters still going to Cheltenham or the football.
They were both given the same response by the Department of Health’s Twitter account.
There are 1,257 hospitals in the UK. Yesterday they did 1,500 coronavirus tests between them. That is just over one each. Is there anyone who can honestly think that means the government is taking all reasonable steps to contain this virus? Please retweet if you think not
— Richard Murphy (@RichardJMurphy) March 11, 2020
Every single country is either locking down, restricting travel, shutting schools, stopping all major events and increasing widespread testing to try and reduce #coronavirus. Meanwhile in the UK...over 100,000 people go to watch sport at Anfield and Cheltenham yesterday.#COVID19
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) March 12, 2020
The government has previously insisted that if it takes some measures against the virus too early it may not have the desired effect.
It has said it is moving into the “delay” phase of its plan to stem the outbreak, which should see efforts to try and slow the spread.
Boris Johnson said: “In something like this, what the scientists say is you’ve got a range of things that you can do to arrest or check the spread of a disease,” he said.
“But you can’t fire your shots too early, it’s all about the timing and the progression.”