Three questions the government didn't answer in Friday's coronavirus press conference

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Matt Hancock speaking during Friday's media briefing in Downing Street. (PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)

In recent days, the government has come under increasing fire for not answering difficult questions about the coronavirus crisis.

As the number of UK deaths continues to accelerate, health secretary Matt Hancock led the government’s press briefing in Downing Street on Friday evening.

Here are three questions he did not answer.

1. Hancock was asked if the government’s antibody tests are ever going to materialise

Antibody tests detect whether someone has had the virus. The government said it has ordered 17.5 million, but they are still being checked to see if they work.

If they do work, the antibody tests would form part of Hancock’s target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.

However, Hancock couldn’t guarantee they will be used.

Here is his response: “As I’ve been clear all along, we will only use them if they work. It’s clear that no G7 country has yet found a home antibody test that works but we continue to search for one.

“This is an area where the science is constantly developing and there is a huge amount of global effort going into finding one of these tests that does work.

“I’ve also been clear that we’ve put the orders in place so that should they work, we can get them here in the UK.”

2. Hancock was asked if the UK’s relative lack of testing has cost lives

South Korea was raised as an example of a country which has carried out effective testing: 443,273 as of Friday. Its death toll is just 174, despite being the second worst affected country (behind China) at the beginning of the outbreak.

On Friday, the UK’s death toll increased to 3,605, with 173,784 tests carried out.

Hancock did not say if its perceived weakness in testing has caused the death toll to rise.

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Here is his response: “The truth is, we’ve had a clear ramp up in testing as part of the strategy from the start. We had just under 2,000 tests a day a month ago and I set the goal of reaching 10,000 a day. We have reached that and hit that on target at the end of March.

“Now we have got the clear goal of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. There are countries that have tested more than us, like Germany, but there’s others like France that haven’t tested as much as us.

“The question of the correlations is a very complicated one with lots of factors in it.”

Read Yahoo News UK’s analysis of South Korea’s coronavirus approach HERE.

3. Hancock was asked what help patients are being given for their mental wellbeing when they are on their own in hospital

Hancock only said the government had given £5 million to the MIND mental health charity for its work during the pandemic, without addressing the question about patients who are on their own.

Here is his response: “I really worry about the impact of coronavirus on the mental health of those who are badly affected, and I really feel for those who have seen their loved ones die and not been able to be with them at the end.

“This is a really difficult issue. We have to make sure we support people with compassion and understanding for what they’re going through.

“This is going to be an issue of increasing importance as the crisis goes on.”

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