The Tory minister defended the decision to discharge elderly people from hospitals almost immediately, usually without coronavirus testing, in a bid to free up beds. “As we have learned more about the virus we have updated those infection control guidance, we have taken more steps, we have done the social care action plan,” she said.
She added: “At all points in this we have followed the scientific guidance.”
To which Ms Burley replied: “And then you make the policy – you take (scientists’) advice and then you make the policy – you can’t stick this on the scientists.
The MP responded: “But I can, because…”
Shocked, the Sky News host blasted: “You can stick it on the scientists?”
Helen Whately clashed with Kay Burley over Government’s failure to protect care homes
Helen Whately appeared to blame scientists for the mishandling of coronavirus in care homes
In an attempt to backtrack on her statement, Ms Whately replied: “No, no, no – that is not what I mean to say.”
Ms Burley said: “You just said you can stick this on the scientists – either you can or you can’t.”
Ms Whatley replied: “To be clear, that is your words.”
Ms Burley said: “I said ‘You can’t stick this on the scientists’ and you said you can – I didn’t put those words in your mouth.”
Ms Whatley responded: “What I mean to say is that we have taken the scientific advice at every stage of this process – we have taken the scientific advice and then judgment is made about what is the right decision to take.”
She continued: “We have been trying to do everything we can for those in care homes because we know that they are at greater risk.”
Speaking on BBC earlier on Tuesday, Ms Whately said the Government is “following the scientific guidance on what is the safe thing to do and the right thing to do” when it comes to getting children back to school.
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Kay Burley was shocked to hear Helen Whatley blamed scientists for the Government’s coronavirus plan
She told BBC Breakfast that getting children back to school is “not easy”, adding: “Asking children to social distance for instance is not a straightforward thing to do.”
Ms Whately, who has two children in primary school, said the public will hear more later from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson “about the plans over the coming weeks”.
She said the Government does not want to take risks that might increase the infection rate, but is also mindful of the disadvantages of children not being in school, adding that the aim is to “get the balance right between those things”.
Ms Whately said getting children back to school is “not something that is easily done”, adding: “We must of course be listening to the teachers and the head teachers who are having to do this in practice.”