Conservative MP Caroline Nokes admitted the Government’s coronavirus quarantine measures have come “at the wrong time”. Grilled by ITV’s Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan on Wednesday, the former immigration minister said: “I think there have been challenges and 20/20 hindsight is always a marvellous thing but it’s crucially important that we learn the lessons, that we act as quickly as we can in those areas where we haven’t done well.”
As Mr Morgan confronted her on whether she would agree to his criticism of Boris Johnson’s team’s approach to the crisis, she added: “Too many people have died, too many people have been infected and I have said from the outset I think we were slow into lockdown.
“Quarantine is coming at the wrong time and had we quarantined sooner, perhaps followed the models of countries like Australia and New Zealand who closed borders, we would have seen fewer infections.”
Last week, the Prime Minister said he was “very proud” of his Government’s response to the pandemic.
Facing Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in the Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson said: “I take full responsibility for everything this government has been doing in tackling coronavirus, and I’m very proud of our record.
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ITV GMB: Caroline Nokes admits UK was ‘slow’ to call for a coronavirus lockdown
ITV GMB: Piers Morgan criticised Boris Johnson’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic
“If you look at what we have achieved so far, it is very considerable. We have protected the NHS, we have driven down the death rate. We are now seeing far fewer hospital admissions.”
He added: “I think what the country would like to hear from him is more signs of cooperation in that endeavour.”
Mr Johnson is set to announce children will soon be able to visit zoos in the latest easing of lockdown measures – although their wait to go back to school could last months.
Mr Johnson will face the nation at the Downing Street briefing on Wednesday and is expected to confirm zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas can reopen in England from June 15.
It comes a day after Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed shops would also be able to reopen on the same day as the Government seeks to kick-start the economy.
But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was forced to admit defeat over plans for all primary pupils in England to attend classes before the summer break.
Meanwhile, health bosses have raised concerns that around 10 million people will be on the waiting list for NHS treatment by the end of the year – more than double the current figure – due to a combination of social distancing measures, a backlog of treatments and staffing shortages.
The Prime Minister, who will face a grilling from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today, will reopen outdoor attractions where people remain in their cars, such as safari parks and drive-in cinemas, because the risk of spreading the disease is lower outside.
A Downing Street official said: “People are continuing to make huge sacrifices to reduce the spread of coronavirus and avoid a second spike, but we know it is tough and where we can safely open up more attractions, and it is supported by the science, we will do so.”
ITV GMB: Caroline Nokes said UK should have followed New Zealand’s example
Questions remain, however, over returning pupils to school with a number of councils, including in the north west of England, opposing plans to widely reopen after new data suggested coronavirus could still be spreading in their local areas.
Children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England began returning to primary school last week after the Government eased lockdown measures.
But some schools said they did not have enough space on site to admit all pupils in the eligible year groups, while adhering to Government guidance to limit class sizes to 15 and encourage fewer interactions.
Mr Williamson said the Government would like to see schools who “have the capacity” bring back more pupils where possible before the summer break but conceded the Government was “working to bring all children back to school in September”.