Government says it’s 'too early' to explain why UK has worst COVID death rate in world

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Watch: Minister says ‘too early’ to explain why UK has worst COVID death rate

The government has said it is “too early” to explain why the UK has the worst COVID-19 death rate in the world.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis refused to answer a number of questions on the issue during a heated interview with hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.

On Monday, University of Oxford research platform Our World In Data revealed that the UK had the worst death rate in the world from coronavirus.

On Tuesday, it found that, based on a rolling seven-day average, the UK had a rate of 16.7 deaths per million people, ahead of the Czech Republic on 15.7, Portugal on 15.45 and Slovakia on 13.58.

Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis, right, was questioned by Good Morning Britain hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. (ITV)
Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis, right, was questioned by Good Morning Britain hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. (ITV)

But Lewis claimed it is not yet possible to compare the death rates from different countries.

He told the programme: “You can’t do a direct comparison of that type with this virus in terms of death rates.

“We can’t answer that question at the moment.

“It’s too early to draw direct comparison on something like that. The pandemic is still moving around the world.”

He suggested that different nations are at different stages of the outbreak and that there is a lag in recording deaths.

Morgan pointed out that the UK government has been eager to reference international comparisons in terms of delivering vaccines, for which the UK is performing strongly.

According to the government’s coronavirus database, there were 37,535 new cases on Monday and 599 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

The most recent figures for hospital admissions show 3,984 people with COVID-19 were admitted last Thursday, meaning there was a total of 37,475 coronavirus patients.

The Our World In Data figures do not take into account demographic differences between countries.

The chart from Our World in Data
The chart from Our World in Data

Last Friday, England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, warned that the number of patients being admitted to hospital with coronavirus would peak within the next 10 days.

Read more: What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

Lewis also said it is “too early” to outline how England’s national lockdown will be eased.

In a separate interview on Tuesday with BBC Breakfast, he said: “The prime minister said when we put these restrictions in place that we’d have a review point in mid-February, we’re still some weeks away even from that review point.

“I think we’ve got to wait until we get to that point and see where we’re at, see how the vaccine programme is rolling out, see how the restrictions have worked and then we can look at what the next steps are.

“But whether that’s in February or whether we move forward in March it’s just too early now in relatively early January to give an outline to that.”

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's lockdown

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