THE UK Government “missed” eight conference calls or meetings about coronavirus between EU heads of state or health ministers from February to March, reports show.

Between February 13 and March 30 the UK missed out on the meetings, which it was still entitled to join during the Brexit transition period.

According to Reuters, UK ministers later made arrangements to join in lower-level meetings between officials – but by that point had already missed the deadline to participate in a joint procurement scheme for ventilators which it had been invited to.

READ MORE: New figures reveal true number of Scots killed by coronavirus

The Reuters report – published as the UK reached its highest number of daily confirmed deaths of its outbreak so far (938) – revealed extensive details on the UK’s response to the coronavirus crisis, claiming that scientists were aware of the seriousness of the crisis, but “did not clearly signal their worsening fears to the public or the government”.

Dr Philippa Whitford, the SNP’s shadow health secretary, expressed concern over Matt Hancock’s lack of participation in the meetings, which took place between heads of state and health ministers across the bloc as Europe became the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

She told The National: “My feeling is had he taken part in these maybe he would have realised earlier from hearing from his counterparts in other parts of Europe just what it is the UK is facing.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is himself hospitalised with the coronavirus, had faced criticism for not implementing a lockdown in the UK earlier. The UK introduced strict physical distancing restrictions on March 23 – when the number of daily deaths was already at 54. Meanwhile in Europe, Portugal brought in restrictions after just one confirmed Covid-19 death.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: UK death toll will be worst in Europe, IHME predicts

The news of the “missed” meetings also comes as a report from the IHME projected 66,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK by August – the highest death toll in Europe, and more than Italy, Spain, France and Germany combined. Scientists from Imperial College London, who modelled the shape of the UK's epidemic for the Government, have dismissed the study.

Reuters’s report also follows speculation over why the UK did not join the EU’s ventilator procurement scheme. Initially a Downing Street spokesperson had said it was because the UK was no longer a member of the bloc, but later Number 10 admitted there had been communication problems which led to the UK missing out on the scheme.

The Department of Health has been approached for comment.

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