Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.48 11 May 2020


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A former British MP has disputed that the country has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe.

Edwina Currie is a former Conservative Party representative, who also served as British junior health minister.

The number of people who have died in Britain passed 31,000 last week, making it the country with the second-most deaths after the US.

According to Johns Hopkins University, it also surpasses Italy's death toll of 30,560.

Spain and France make up the top five with 26,621 and 26,383 deaths respectively.

But Ms Currie told Pat Kenny it depends on how you interpret the figures.

Ex-UK MP Edwina Currie defends Britain's coronavirus reporting

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"Every time I'm on your programme and I talk about statistics, other people tell me I've got it wrong.

"We don't have the highest death rate in Europe, we have at the moment the highest numbers of reported deaths.

"And that's partly because we are a big country, we report deaths from all sources - from all locations - and we do it very, very promptly.

"A number of other countries are still playing catch up."

Pat disputed this, pointing to how the UK health minister separated out deaths from nursing homes.

Ms Currie claimed this is no longer the case: "That was weeks and weeks ago - for the last fortnight we've been very up to date indeed."

"And the outcome of that is if you take death rate - the number of deaths per million - Belgium is by far the worst in Europe, and Spain and Italy are also ahead of the United Kingdom.

"It's not a competition, we are not happy about this at all", she said.

She defended Mr Johnson's plan to ease the country's lockdown plan.

"Every government, every minister - your ministers, our ministers - have to take the best decision possible.

"I tell you what happens Pat when you get elected to parliament, and when you get elected to the Dáil: you do not receive an envelope full of additional grey matter, you do not suddenly become a much wiser person.

"You can only act on exactly the same basis that you acted on before - you take the best decisions that you possibly can with the information available to you".

The plan has come in for criticism, after division appeared across the UK.

Leaders in Northern Ireland have said they will not follow the new COVID-19 approach set out by London.

People there are now being told to "stay alert, control the virus, save lives" - a change from a previous mantra of "stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives".

This has been criticised by some for being unclear and confusing.

While the leaders of administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already said they will not use this updated message - telling people to simply "stay at home" instead.

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer said: "This statement raises more questions than it answers, and we see the prospect of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland pulling in different directions.

"The prime minister appears to be effectively telling millions of people to go back to work without a clear plan for safety or clear guidance as to how to get there without using public transport.

"What the country wanted tonight was clarity and consensus, but we haven't got either of those."

Main image: Edwina Currie is seen at a school in Derbyshire, England in August 2019. Picture by: Joe Giddens/PA Archive/PA Images

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