“The reality is that we’re going to be living with COVID-19, we’re not going to be eliminating it,” the ex-PM tells Sophy Ridge.
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- 1 “The reality is that we’re going to be living with COVID-19, we’re not going to be eliminating it,” the ex-PM tells Sophy Ridge.
Tony Blair has told Sky News the UK is going to be living with COVID-19, not eliminating it, for the foreseeable future.
He has urged Boris Johnson to put measures in place to contain and control the virus to prevent a new surge of cases in the autumn.
The former prime minister has also accused the government of inconsistent messages on face masks, which became compulsory in shops in England on Friday.
And he claimed that since another lockdown in the UK was unrealistic, masks would help to control coronavirus, as they have in many other countries.
Mr Blair recorded an interview for Sophy Ridge On Sunday as he launches a new report on tackling coronavirus by his Institute for Global Change think tank.
In its report, the institute calls for the widespread wearing of face masks and social distancing for some time to prevent a second surge of coronavirus cases as lockdown rules are eased.
The former PM began his interview by criticising the government’s record on testing.
“We’re doing infinitely better than we were, we’re testing many, many more people,” he acknowledged.
“But I still don’t think we’ve got the right strategy in place for what I would call mass testing, and if you think our capacity is 300,000 tests a day, we’re probably only utilising, on our calculations, about half of that.
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“We’ll soon have 500,000 tests a day capacity. We should be using all of it and that means extending greatly the numbers of people who have got access to tests and using the data and local communities much more effectively in doing it.
“And the reason why I still think we’re short of where we need to be is that, if you analyse what we know about this disease now and look at the global data, the reality is that we’re going to be living with COVID-19, we’re not going to be eliminating it.”
Asked for how long, Mr Blair said: “Well, for the foreseeable future, for enough of the future that means it’s worth putting in place the containment infrastructure that allows you to control it.
“Because the problem is that if you just look in the last few days you’ve had surges of cases in Poland, Australia, Romania, Israel, Argentina, several other countries.
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“So there’s a pattern developing which is that people go into lockdown, they ease the lockdown, but then there are significant spikes.
“And we’re still in the summer months when it’s frankly easier to deal with the disease. There is a possibility that you end up with a resurgence in the autumn.”
He added: “Now, it may not happen, but you have got to hope for the best and plan for the worst. And so what we do in the paper we’ve put out from the institute is suggest a whole range of things that you could do now that would allow you to put in place that containment infrastructure.”
Asked if the government’s messaging on face coverings had been clear and consistent, Mr Blair said: “No, I think even the most ardent supporter of the government would say that.
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“They began by saying they weren’t necessary. I think we said two or three months ago that it was obvious we were going to go in the direction of masks.
“There are certain things that are just obvious when you look at them. And the evidence on masks, by the way, is absolutely clear globally, there’s no doubt they help control the disease.
“If you look at the countries that have used masks extensively, not just the Asian countries where it’s more of the normal culture, but take a country like Austria, where they’ve used masks extensively, there’s no doubt they have been able better to control the disease.
“And it’s all about controlling it, because if you think that you can’t really go back into lockdown… and I think it’s just unrealistic to think we’re going to be able to do that.”
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The former PM said the government should “use the months of August and September” to get ready for a potential second wave and avoid a “devastating” second national lockdown.
“I am already horrified by the potential economic damage, even from the lockdown we’ve done and the loss of confidence, if you go back into another big lockdown, I think it would be devastating for the economy,” Mr Blair said.
“You can’t rule out doing it but it’s going to have to be a terrible situation so the likelihood is you’re going to have spikes, you might have a resurgence and you are going to have to control it because you won’t be able to go back into the kind of nuclear option of lockdown.
“So if that’s the case, just prepare now, use the months of August and September to put in place the best infrastructure you possibly can.”