UK 'didn't act at speed' during coronavirus pandemic, former WHO director Anthony Costello tells Robert Peston

Former World Health Organization (WHO) director Anthony Costello has told Robert Peston the government "didn't act at speed" during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking on ITV's Peston Show, the British paediatrician said: "We can make comparisons between the European countries and America and the Asian countries that clearly acted faster than us because clearly we didn't act at speed."

When asked whether testing in the community has been a disaster, Mr Costello said: "It's not just about testing numbers, since day one the WHO the policy has been to find test, trace and isolate and the isolate seems to be forgotten about."

"The key finding is that you have to do all of this at speed," he added.

Mr Costello added that the UK has appeared to have totally bypass our primary care system.

He said: "If I got symptoms tomorrow I would want to call or email my GP, my GP knows my history, my underlying health condition and they would be able to reassure to test you."

He added: "One thing I have learnt this week and astonishingly GPs aren't allowed to ask for a test... So we're bypassing the sustainable system that would call us and recall us when there is a problem and when they are worried."

Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, Andrea Leadsom, said she welcomes Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg's decision for MPs to return to parliament by June 2.

"We need to do our jobs, the government needs us, we are workers too and we need to be setting a good example," she said.

She added that the the business of government, particularly the "scrutiny of legislation and government needs to happen".

She also confirmed that MPs who may be vulnerable or unable to come in can continue to work from home as "people will not be forced to come in" but added that "for those others of us that feel we can come, we will".

When asked about the government's decision to extend its bereavement scheme to all NHS support staff and carers, she said: "Priti is a really decent, kind woman, she really is, I don't know why that wasn't there yesterday but it is there today."

"As soon as she will have come become aware of it, I'm quite certain she would've wanted to extend that to all carers and overseas staff," she added.

Former Foreign Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the International Rescue Committee, David Milliband, also agreed with Ms Leadsom saying: "The heart of the cheques and balances is effective accountability is key in government."

David Milliband agreed with Andrea Leadsom about MPs returning to Parliament from June. Credit: ITV's Peston Show

When asked about how well Sir Keir Starmer is doing as the Labour leader, he said: "He's doing really well, he's made me proud to be Labour again."

The years in which we were unelectable in which our promises could be turned into reality have been put to one side.

"I think Keir would say it's a very long road back from Labour's worst result since 1935 but he's brought back clarity, pride, principle to the work of opposition."

On the return of football, former England Manager Sam Allardyce said money is a factor for Premier League clubs returning but he said the biggest concern is for the lower leagues.

He added that it will be interesting to see how many will get infected from going back to their training.

When asked about how risky it is for players returning, Mr Allardyce said: "Eventually they will have to come back 11 vs 11 and then they will have to see what testing is saying then.

"It is a big worry now but they must take each step at a time and hopefully we'll see the Premier League."

He said that that players "will not be forced to play, I can assure you that, they will be able to opt out. One of the bigger problems is the players running out of contracts, will they want to put themselves at risk if their contract is running out."

The return of football will also affect the quality of the game, the former England manager said.

"It will affect the quality of the game, when you walk down the tunnel, the hairs stands on the back of your neck because of the atmosphere. The adrenaline rush will not hit the players like it usually would."

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know