Tony Blair says government is 'overwhelmed' by coronavirus

Tony Blair says Boris Johnson’s government is ‘overwhelmed’ by the coronavirus crisis and that ‘mass testing must be at the heart’ of their strategy

  • Tony Blair today said he was offering constructive advice and not criticism
  • The 66-year-old said the current government needed to be re organised 
  • Said it was the most ‘difficult challenge’ he had seen for any government  
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has today claimed that Boris Johnson’s government is ‘overwhelmed’ by the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the nation.

Mr Blair, who now heads up the Tony Blair Institute, also highlighted that ‘mass testing must be at the heart’ of the government’s strategy to defeat the virus that has so far claimed 17,337 lives in the UK. 

Mr Johnson has been out of action while recovering from the virus with Dominic Raab taking over the helm, liaising with key ministers such a Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Speaking to Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain today, the 66-year-old said he was offering ‘constructive advice and not criticism’, but said the government needed to be ‘re-organised’.

‘This is the most difficult challenge I have ever seen for any government it is immensely complicated and it has all sorts of dimensions, but it’s more to do with being overwhelmed’.

He added that the Tony Blair Institute has complied a paper about testing and said there needed to be a detailed examination of the different issues.

‘I think you need to re-position government completely’, he added.

‘Many of the skills you need to deal with something like this, which is around things on production of equipment how you source different elements of the equipment, the heart of this is mass testing and what I’m saying is that you have to reorder the whole of government.

‘You should divide up the different key elements and have senior ministers in charge of each element, divided up in that way with good outside people, people who have got the skill set that won’t be politicians or people in government or bureaucracy.’

He claimed the government needs to get to the point where it has the capability of dealing with ‘all the different dimensions and not getting overwhelmed’. 

‘I say that with a lot of humility because I know how difficult it is to be in government and I know how tough the decision making is. 

‘I’m sure everyone is working flat out by the way but it’s really just a question of whether we are positioned rightly to measure up to the scale of this problem and there is a need for action, decision making and speed.’

Asked on if he thought the army should be more involved he said that when he was dealing with the foot and mouth outbreak during his tenure, it was only when the army stepped in that they were able to ‘accelerate our ability to deal with it.’ 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured above) had been giving media briefings 

‘In normal government, as you know Piers, you have your education department, your health department, your industry department, your defence department. This is just a government with one challenge and so I don’t think you can leave the system operating as the normal system and that’s really the point I’m making. 

‘When you come to the exit from the lockdown, this phase of the suppression of the disease – which is absolutely right and necessary, that in my view is actually probably a simpler task than how you exit from the lockdown. 

‘How you exit is really, really complicated and unless you have the right skill set there at the centre of government right from the very beginning then it’s going to be very hard to do things like mass testing, which I can’t see any other way out of this.’

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