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UK government hits back at falsehood’ over slow COVID-19 response

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Downing Street has dismissed as falsehoods and errors, a UK media report which alleged the government’s coronavirus response was slow and that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson missed emergency meetings on the pandemic in the early stages of the outbreak that has killed over 16,000 people in the country.

A report in ‘The Sunday Times’ had claimed that the UK government did not react fast enough as the death toll from COVID-19 started mounting in Wuhan province of China, the epicenter of the pandemic.

“This article contains a series of falsehoods and errors and actively misrepresents the enormous amount of work which was going on in government at the earliest stages of the coronavirus outbreak, a UK government spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday evening.

“This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it, guided at all times by the best scientific advice. The Prime Minister has been at the helm of the response to this, providing leadership during this hugely challenging period for the whole nation, the spokesperson said.

The Sunday Times’ report had claimed that Johnson missed five emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (COBRA) meetings at the very start of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, a claim previously branded as grotesque by Cabinet ministers.

“It is entirely normal and proper for COBRA to be chaired by the relevant secretary of state, the government spokesperson stressed later.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson continues his convalescence following his COVID-19 related hospitalization at the UK prime ministerial country retreat Chequers but remains in regular contact with Cabinet ministers, including commissioning advice on the lockdown.

Ministers have, however, been told by Downing Street civil servants that he is not expected to return to Number 10 this week, as he abides by the advice of doctors to rest and recover.

The number of people in Britain who have died in hospital from the coronavirus rose to 16,060 on Sunday, according to daily health ministry figures.

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