LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has been left to play catch up and firefight its way through the coronavirus pandemic due to a “desperate” lack of clear leadership, one of its most renowned scientists said on Friday.
Paul Nurse, a Nobel prize winning geneticist and head of the Francis Crick Institute in London, said it was not clear to him who was in charge and the country, including the “lions” on the front line, needed much more.
“We are desperate for clear leadership at all levels,” he told BBC radio.
“I get a sense the UK has been rather too much on the back foot, increasingly playing catch up, firefighting through successive crises.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been heavily criticised for its response to the pandemic, with opposition politicians, unions and scientists accusing it of being too slow to introduce a lockdown, mass testing and protective equipment for medical staff.
Official statistics show the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 death toll has reached nearly 43,000, underlining the country’s status as the worst-hit in Europe.
The government has said it is following scientific advice and was taking the right decisions at the right time.
However, the Nobel laureate said the government and its scientific advisers needed to set out a clear strategy and the evidence that underpinned it, and then learn from mistakes.
“Maybe there’s a strategy there, I don’t see it,” he said. “We have lions on the front line of clinical care, we need lions also on the leadership so we can actually really drive this forward.”
“The question I’m constantly asking myself is who is in charge of the decisions, who is developing the strategy, and the operation and implementation of that strategy?” he said.
“I don’t know, but more importantly, do they know?”
(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Michael Holden)