Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of medical journal, The Lancet, and professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has been pulled up on his contradictory coronavirus remarks. During yesterday evening’s BBC Question Time, Mr Horton labelled the government’s dealings with the outbreak as a “national scandal”, and how the approach in curbing the virus has been insufficient.
Yet, in a tweet from January, Mr Horton appeared to share what largely disregarded the seriousness of the virus coming from China, saying it had only “moderate transmissibility and relatively ow pathogenicity” – meaning there was little to over exaggerate about.
On Question Time, however, he said: “I’m sorry but this is a national scandal.
“We shouldn’t be in this position. We knew in the last week of January that this was coming.
“The message from China was absolutely clear – that a new virus with pandemic potential was hitting cities, people were being admitted to hospital, to intensive care, and dying, and the mortality was growing.
“We knew that 11 weeks ago, and then we wasted February when we could have acted.”
He went on to talk about how he has been told personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff is running extremely low, and that which is available is in fact the wrong kind.
Though Mr Horton’s words may ring true at this point, in the last week of January – the same time period he referenced – he tweeted something to the contrary.
He wrote: “A call for caution please. Media are escalating anxiety by talking of a “killer virus” plus ‘growing fears’.
“In truth, from what we currently know, 2019-nCov has moderate transmissibility and relatively low pathogenicity.
“There is no reason to foster panic with exaggerated language.”
Earlier on the programme, the housing, communities and local government minister struggle to evade Fiona Bruce’s firing line as she pushed him for an answer on the NHS’ lack of PPE.
It came as reports from health services across the country surfaced of NHS workers not being able to access the suitable equipment to protect themselves from catching and spreading the virus.
Ms Bruce asked: “Well, tell us tonight because a lot of people at home will be GPs or health assistants – when do you think people who need it within the health system will have the correct equipment and sufficient personal protective equipment? “When will that be?”
Before taking a long pause, Mr Jenrick replied: “Well, I can’t give you an exact time.
“What I do know is…”
Here, Ms Bruce came in with a fiery “so you don’t know?”
Mr Jenrick continued: “What I do know is that in the last 48 hours 25 million packs of gloves have been delivered, 15 million face masks, almost 2 million items of eye protection.
“These are large quantities and we probably need much more than that but we are ramping up production.”