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Labour leader accuses PM of ‘pretending’ there’s no problem with testing

by Mark Fitt Political Journalist
23rd Sep 20 4:24 pm

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Wednesday’s Prime Minsters Questions (PMQs) of “pretending there isn’t a problem” with the government’s testing.

Johnson defended Baroness Dido Harding who is the head of the NHS Test and Trace, and he said that the UK are “testing more people than any other European country.”

Sir Keir asked why Johnson said on Tuesday that the Test and Trace system has “very little or nothing” to do with the spread or the transmission of Coronavirus.

Labour leader added, “Both positions cannot be right, which one is it, Prime Minister?”

Responding, Johnson said, “It is an obvious fact of biology and epidemiology that alas this disease is transmitted by human contact or aerosol contact.

“But it is one of the great advantages of NHS Test and Trace, which we did not have working earlier in the pandemic, that we now have the ability to see in granular detail where the epidemic is breaking out, exactly which groups are being infected.

“That’s why we’ve been able to deliver the local lockdowns and that’s why we’re able to tell at this stage that it is necessary to take the decisive action we are … to drive the virus down, keep kids in school and keep our economy moving.”

Sir Keir hit back at Johnson and said,, “Pretending there isn’t a problem is part of the problem, Prime Minister.”

He added, “Is the explanation from the PM that we haven’t got enough capacity because nobody could have expected the rise in demand?

“That’s the Dido Harding defence, or is it we’ve got all the capacity we need, it is just that people are being unreasonable in asking for tests?

“That’s the (Matt) Hancock defence. So, which is it?

Johnson said, “I must say that the continual attacks by the opposition on Dido Harding in particular are unseemly and unjustified.”

He added, “Testing more people than any other European country … we’re going to go up to 500,000 tests by the end of October.”

Sir Keir highlighted on testing in schools, that one in eight children are off school this week, adding, “How on earth did we get into this mess?”

The Prime Minister said, “We are doing our level best to get every child a test who has symptoms and further to that, thanks to the efforts of teachers in this country, of parents, pupils, 99.9% of our schools are now back.”

Johnson was then accused of being “out of touch” with the experiences of parents with school-age children, by Si Keir.

He added, “That’s such a poor defence, the point … isn’t whether the children have got Covid, it’s that they’ve got Covid symptoms and then they’re off school.

“The government’s own department shows that one in eight children are off school this week. That disrupts their education. Whether it’s Covid symptoms or other symptoms is nothing to the point.

“If the Prime Minister doesn’t see that, he’s really out of touch with families and what they’re going through in schooling day in, day out in the last few weeks.

“The reality is losing control of testing is a major reason why the Prime Minister is losing control of this virus.”

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