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Government hits back at critics who say its coronavirus response is complacent

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference, at 10 Downing Street, in London, on the government's coronavirus action plan.

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.

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”.

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.

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.”