“I’m ashamed that our country was so ill-prepared and put them out there, fighting in the front line without proper protection. It is to our eternal shame that we were not prepared well enough and early enough,” he told NME.
The guitarist’s comments come as supplies of protective equipment continue to run low across the UK, with the government facing criticism for their apparent failure to protect healthcare workers who are in constant contact with the disease.
But May also praised the “courage” of NHS workers and said they were in the middle of a “war” against the disease.
“It’s incredible, I can’t believe the courage and dedication of these people. They are our true heroes and I don’t think you can say enough about this,” he said.
“It is a war and it makes me think of my grandfather going out into the trenches in the Somme and basically being sacrificed by the country to defeat an enemy. It’s a very similar thing and it breaks my heart to see doctors and nurses struggle and die with this disease.”
When asked about the wider response to the pandemic, May claimed that the government should have adopted wider action at an earlier stage.
“We should have closed down the ports of entry and adopted detective work like other countries did to find out anyone who was tested positive. There’s so many measures which are now in place and I’m glad we’re doing it. Most people are doing it conscientiously, although there are a few idiots around. But the vast majority of people are behaving very responsibly and generously.”
He added: “The loss of freedom is painful, especially for people who are isolated on their own with no money and no food. To me it’s a heart-breaker and I’d like to do more — I’m looking for ways to contribute more.
“But that shouldn’t happen and it puts a magnifying glass on the inequality of our society. It’s painful and we need to look at this.”
It comes as thousands of Britons back initiatives to provide PPE, while festivals such as Glastonbury have donated thousands of ponchos to be repurposed as aprons for frontline workers.
Earlier this week, May also blamed meat-eating for the pandemic and said that widespread veganism should be adopted when the crisis ends.
He told NME: “If you want to get deep into it, I think we should be looking again at whether we should be eating animals.”
May, who has followed a plant-based diet since January, added: “Now we’ve seen more of the effects of how eating animals has brought us to our knees as a species, I think it’s time to re-examine our world in a way that doesn’t abuse other species.”
He was speaking to NME to promote the release of ‘Get Up’, a new track which sees him lending his talents to upcoming London band King’s Daughters.