Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has labelled the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak as “concerning” after Boris Johnson outlined the latest advice.
The PM said that public events would not be cancelled and schools will remain open despite a rising number of cases in the country.
The Government’s top scientist warned that up to 10,000 people in the UK could already be infected, with the death toll now in the double digits.
Johnson said it was crucial to get the timing right for stricter measures, but Hunt, who quit as foreign secretary in July, told BBC Newsnight that the UK was in a “national emergency” and suggested the government’s new approach did not go far enough.
Asked about the decision not to cancel large gatherings yet, he said: “I think it is surprising and concerning that we’re not doing any of it at all when we have just four weeks before we get to the stage that Italy is at.
“You would have thought that every single thing we do in that four weeks would be designed to slow the spread of people catching the virus.”
Much of Italy – the world’s worst-hit country after China – is currently in lockdown as the country’s tally of deaths has topped 1,000.
Mr Hunt, chair of the Commons health and social care committee, said he was also “personally surprised that we’re still allowing external visits to care homes”.
He added that the evidence from countries who appeared to have been successful in turning back the virus showed they “moved very early” on introducing social distancing.