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British PM Defends COVID-19 Response to Opposition

Britain's Prime Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session, in parliament in London, July 15, 2020.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Wednesday defended his government's COVID-19 response and preparations for a potential second wave of the pandemic as he fielded pointed questions from opposition lawmakers in parliament.

In the House of Commons, opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer, referring to a report commissioned by the Government Office for Science, asked Johnson about the report’s recommendation that tracking and tracing of COVID-19 cases be expanded throughout July and August to prepare for a possible winter surge.

Johnson said they were preparing for the possibility of a second wave but did not say the government was specifically following the report’s recommendations. Starmer questioned if Britain’s track and trace program was up to the task.

The prime minister insisted the track and trace program was “doing fantastic work” and is as equal to or better that any system in the world. He said the program has resulted in 144,000 people across the nation agreeing to isolate themselves to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Starmer noted the most recent statistics show the program is slipping, contacting 70 percent of the people it needs to, while it was at 90 percent just a few weeks earlier. He questioned whether Johnson had read his own government’s report, which set out the worst-case scenario for the pandemic in the months ahead and what to do about it.

Johnson said he was “aware” of the report and the government was taking every reasonable step to prepare.

The prime minister was asked if his government would commit to an independent public inquiry to access its response to the pandemic. He said certainly there would be an inquiry, but the middle of combating the pandemic was not the appropriate time for it.

Britain has reported one of the world’s highest numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.

On Tuesday Britain’s government said it will demand people wear face coverings inside shops.