Sir Keir Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of a coronavirus cover-up by ditching international death comparisons as UK becomes worst hit country in Europe with 32,692 dead
- Downing Street regularly published global death comparison slide for 7 weeks
- But Number 10 now appears to have stopped publishing the comparison data
- Sir Keir Starmer claimed Boris Johnson had made the move due to UK death toll
- UK now appears to be the worst affected nation in Europe with 32,692 deaths
- Mr Johnson insisted it is ‘premature’ to make global death toll comparisons
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
The global death toll comparison graph has been a fixture of the daily Number 10 press conference during the outbreak.
But the slide was not released yesterday and Sir Keir claimed at PMQs that the data is now being withheld because it shows the UK is the worst affected nation in Europe.
Mr Johnson hit back and said it was ‘premature’ to make such comparisons as he labelled coronavirus a ‘once in a century epidemic’.
But the Prime Minister’s defence was labelled ‘baffling’ by the Labour leader as he pointed out that the Government has repeatedly published the graph comparing the UK to the likes of the US, Italy and Spain during the crisis.
Sir Keir Starmer today demanded to know why the UK Government has stopped publishing a graph comparing the coronavirus death toll in different countries
Boris Johnson said it was ‘premature’ to make such comparisons but Sir Keir claimed the graph had been ditched because the UK is now the worst hit country in Europe
Speaking in the House of Commons, Sir Keir said: ‘Yesterday the overall figures given by the Government at the press conference for those who have died from Covid-19 was 32,692 – each one a tragedy.
‘For many weeks the Government has compared the UK number against other countries.
‘Last week I showed the Prime Minister his own slide, showing that the UK now has the highest death total in Europe and second highest in the world.
‘A version of this slide has been shown at the Number 10 press conference every day since the 30th of March. That is seven weeks.
‘Yesterday the Government stopped publishing the international comparisons and the slide has gone. Why?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘As he knows very well, the UK has been going through an unprecedented, once in a century epidemic and he seeks to make comparisons with other countries which I am advised are premature because the correct and final way of making these comparisons will be when we have all the excess death totals for all the relevant countries.
‘We do not yet have that data. I am not going to try to pretend to the House that the figures when they are finally confirmed are anything other than stark and deeply, deeply horrifying.
‘This has been an appalling epidemic. What I can tell the House is we are getting those numbers down: The numbers of deaths are coming down, the numbers of hospital admissions are coming down.’
The Prime Minister added: ‘As for the international comparisons that he seeks to draw now, I think he will have to contain his impatience.’
The global death comparison graph has been a fixture of Number 10 coronavirus press conferences but the data is no longer being published by the Government
Sir Keir warned that dropping the international comparisons risked the UK failing to learn the lessons of other countries as he suggested the graph had been scrapped for other reasons.
The Labour leader said: ‘I am baffled. It is not me seeking to draw the comparisons: These are the Government slides that have been used for seven weeks to reassure the public.
‘The problem with the Prime Minister’s answer is it is pretty obvious that for seven weeks when we weren’t the highest number in Europe they were used for comparison purposes, as soon as we hit that unenviable place they have been dropped.’
He added: ‘Dropping the comparisons means dropping the learning and that is the real risk.’