Published: 18:54, 30 April 2020
| Updated: 20:00, 30 April 2020
The Government did the “right thing at the right time” by introducing the coronavirus lockdown when it did, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing on Thursday, Mr Johnson said it was “completely right” to make the lockdown coincide with the peak of the epidemic.
But the Prime Minister said he wanted to “wait until the end [of the pandemic] before making international comparisons” between the UK’s coronavirus death total and other nations.
He added: “The only real test, the only real comparison is going to be possible at the end of the epidemic and you look at total excess deaths.
“I genuinely think when I look back at what the UK has done and, by the way when we put in the lockdown it was earlier in the curve of our epidemic than it was relatively speaking in France, Italy and Spain, I think we did the right measures at the right time.
“I think it was completely right to make our period of lockdown coincide as far as we possibly could with the peak of the epidemic.
“That peak, as I said just now, has passed.
“I do think that broadly speaking, and we’re learning lessons every day, but I do think that broadly speaking, we did the right thing at the right time.”
The latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care show that 26,771 people have now died in all settings with coronavirus.
This is the third highest death toll in the world and second highest in Europe, with 27,682 recorded in Italy and 60,967 in the USA, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
But England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said comparing the UK’s coronavirus death toll with other countries was a “fruitless exercise”.
Prof Whitty said that any comparison should be done with caution because different countries measure their coronavirus cases in different ways.
He said that lessons must be learned after the epidemic had passed but there was a long way to go until it had run its course.
He added: “We are nowhere near the end of this epidemic.
“We are through – and it’s very good as the PM said – the first phase of this.
“There is a very long way to run for every country in the world on this and let’s not go charging in to who’s won and who’s lost, let’s try to take it quite carefully.
“Every country measures its covid cases in a slightly different way, so comparing one with one another is largely a fruitless exercise.”
Mr Johnson also said that 81,611 coronvirus tests were performed on Wednesday and that the UK was doing as much testing as any country in Europe.
He added: “In principle, every key worker in this country should be able to get a test and we want that to happen, we’re massively ramping up testing and I think I’m right in saying, though I know that Matt Hancock will undoubtedly be telling you more about this tomorrow, I think I’m right in saying that we’re now doing about as much testing as any other country in Europe.”
Germany carries out about 350,000 a week while France has set a target to carry out at least 700,000 coronavirus tests per week from May 11.