Donald Trump has said the UK was facing “catastrophic” results before it changed strategy in the fight against coronavirus – as one of his experts revealed she remains “worried” about Britain’s lack of ventilators.
In a briefing at the White House, the US president claimed the British government had “put themselves in a little bit of a problem” over its original plan to tackle COVID-19.
The UK initially did not follow other European countries in closing schools and banning mass gatherings but ramped up measures following predictions that the country could otherwise have seen 250,000 deaths.
Before the shift in strategy, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told Sky News that around 60% of the UK population would need to become infected with coronavirus in order for society to have “herd immunity” from future outbreaks.
Addressing US measures to tackle coronavirus, Mr Trump said: “A lot of people were saying: ‘Let’s just ride it out’.
“This is not to be ridden out because then you would have been looking at potentially 2.2 million people [dying in the US] or more… in a relatively short period of time.
“If you remember, they were looking at that concept – I guess it’s a concept if you don’t mind death, a lot of death – but they were looking at that in the UK, remember.
More from Covid-19
Coronavirus: Woman fined £650 for refusing to tell police why she was out
Coronavirus: Taylor Wimpey axes bonuses for top bosses after sites closed
Coronavirus: Amazon investigated after firing worker who went on strike over COVID-19
What a way to get through a pandemic! Dolly Parton to read for kids during coronavirus outbreak
Coronavirus: Government insists ‘significant progress’ amid questions over UK testing level
Coronavirus: George Alagiah says cancer gives him ‘an edge’ as he reveals COVID-19 diagnosis
“All of sudden they went hard the other way because they started seeing things that weren’t good. They put themselves in a little bit of a problem.”
The US president added: “They have a name for it, but we won’t even go by the name – it would have been very catastrophic I think if that would have happened.”
:: Listen to Divided States on Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Spreaker
Mr Trump also said he hoped Boris Johnson is “going to be fine” as the prime minister continues to self-isolate in Downing Street after testing positive for coronavirus.
The data suggests the UK is on course for many thousands of deaths
Meanwhile during the briefing, Dr Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, pointed out the relatively low number of ventilators in the UK compared to the US.
She said: “We are worried about groups all around the globe. I don’t know if you heard the report this morning, there are 8,000 ventilators in the UK.
“If you translate that to United States, that would be like the United States having less than 40,000 ventilators. We have five times that.”
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said on Tuesday that the first batch of British-made ventilators to treat coronavirus patients will be rolled out to the NHS next week.
He said thousands are going into production to bolster the 8,000 already deployed in hospitals and reassured the public that ventilators have been bought in from abroad to tackle the pandemic.
The Mercedes F1 team has helped develop a breathing aid to keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care, with a host of other rival teams having pitched in to provide UK hospitals with thousands of extra ventilators.
:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
It was announced on Tuesday that another 393 people have died in the UK after contracting coronavirus – taking the country’s death toll to 1,808.
The number of people who have died in the US after testing positive for the virus has risen to more than 3,800, surpassing the 3,305 reported fatalities in China, where the outbreak began.