You can’t eliminate all risk, admits councillor who slammed early virus response

A councillor who spoke out against the Government in the early days of the coronavirus crisis has admitted it is impossible to avoid “an element of risk” as UK cities begin to reopen.

Samer Bagaeen, Conservative spokesman for health at Brighton and Hove City Council, criticised authorities in February for not providing enough information at a time when public awareness of the virus was lower and confusion was spreading through the East Sussex resort.

The seaside city was one of the first areas in the UK to have confirmed cases of Covid-19, with GP practices having to shut for urgent deep cleaning as a result.

Mr Bagaeen told the PA news agency in February that he had been contacted by constituents desperate for information about the disease.

He called for “full transparency” on coronavirus, the day after the Government declared it a serious and imminent threat to the public.

Councillor Samer Bagaeen speaks to reporters outside the County Oak Medical Centre in Brighton in February (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Now, four months later, Mr Bagaeen told PA that information from the Government has been “better” and he has been happy with the messaging.

However, he stopped short of saying that better information-sharing at the start of the crisis would not have had an impact on the current situation.

He said: “If we were to go back four months and do things differently would the outcomes have been different? Who knows.”

Now he says the focus should be on trying to make sense of the wealth of information coming in from different agencies in order to make a plan for the city.

He said: “A lot of the messaging in the last couple of weeks are about the problems as lockdown has been lifted.

“We are probably now back at the stage of let’s see what information we have and how we use that information for decision-making.

“Ultimately I think it’s about your perception of risk. (You can’t) eliminate risk completely, that’s impossible.”

Spring weather May 21st 2020
People enjoy the hot weather on Brighton beach on May 21 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Mr Bagaeen said it is vital that the area’s tourism industry is able to operate.

He also compared the UK’s approach to tackling the disease to that of South Korea, which has had considerably fewer cases of Covid-19 but where citizens have been subject to close monitoring.

He added: “People have had to give up personal freedoms and had to give up more information about themselves in order to be tracked and I do not know that we are still in this country prepared for something at that scale.”

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