Only “a crystal ball” could have allowed the government to plan for a second lockdown a health minister has said – almost six weeks after government scientific advisers called for circuit breaker restrictions.
Amid reports that England would soon be forced into another month-long full national lockdown, Nadine Dorries tweeted that only a crystal ball could have helped the government anticipate the scale of the second wave of Covid-19.
The health minister has been met with widespread criticism for her comments, made more than a month after the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) called for a two-week circuit breaker to halt the spread of the virus.
In a response to a tweet by journalist Hugo Rifkind, who earlier in October wrote “the lesson of the pandemic so far has been that everything we do, we do at least three weeks too late”, Dorries wrote “If only we had a crystal ball and could actually see how many over 60s would be infected, the positivity rate, the infection rate and the subsequent lag giving us thee 14-day anticipated demand on hospital beds on any particular say, three days in advance.”
On October 13 it emerged that ministers had been warned three weeks prior that the country faced a “very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences” unless they took decisive action and implemented a two-week lockdown.
SAGE proposed five measures alongside a circuit breaker; advising anyone who could to work from home; a ban on household mixing inside homes (apart from within support bubbles); the closure of all hospitality venues, indoor gyms and services such as hairdressers; and all university and college teaching to be moved online “unless absolutely essential”.
Just one of these, the advice to work from home, was officially announced by the government.
After facing criticism for her crystal ball tweet, Dorries – despite being health minister – told Rifkind: “I have no more information than you do.”
Her comments have sparked a backlash from fellow Twitter users, who pointed out that in a senior position, Dorries should have been aware of the trajectory of the virus and the severe restrictions needed to bring it under control.
“You’re our health minister? Oh god,” wrote one social media user.
It’s not the first time during Covid-19 that Dorries’ comments have become the centre of attention.
Just weeks ago she claimed “there is no such thing as herd immunity”, wrongly arguing that the existence of chicken pox and measles meant it didn’t exist.