Thursday, 24 Sep 2020

Boris’s COVID nightmare: PM forced to admit UK does NOT have coronavirus testing capacity

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Boris Johnson was questioned on whether the UK has enough testing available after tests were not available for people with coronavirus symptoms in some of England’s worst affected areas on Wednesday. Speaking to the Liason Committee, Mr Johnson said: “The short answer is no we don’t. We don’t have enough testing capacity now because in an ideal world I would like to test absolutely everybody who wants a test immediately.”

He promised that there would be capacity for 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

But he urged people without symptoms to stay away from testing centres – although he acknowledged the reasons why they may want to find out if they had Covid-19.

He continued: “What has happened is demand has massively accelerated just in the last couple of weeks.

“Many people are seeking to get a test in the hope that they can thereby be released to get on with their lives in the normal way – people who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive, for instance, they are seeking to get a test to ensure that they are OK to go to work.”

“That is perfectly reasonable, and I understand why people are doing that, but the advice and the guidance is that people should seek a test not in those circumstances but when they have symptoms.”

The Prime Minister noted: “everything is being done that we possibly can to increase testing capacity” which includes “automation, batch testing, securing supplies abroad”.

He said a total of four new labs were being built across the country and 300 people were being hired.

“Testing capacity just in the last two weeks has gone up 10%,” he added.

Mr Johnson said an inquiry into the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic would “look at everything that has gone wrong and gone right”.

But he said it would not be a “good use of official time at the moment”, and declined to indicate when the inquiry could begin.

The Prime Minister also faced questions on the civil service from Tory MP William Wragg – chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.

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Mr Wragg asked Mr Johnson why he thought the civil service requires reform.

Mr Johnson said: “I think that they are fantastic public servants and I think that they deliver extraordinary things every day for the British public and every level of government.

“I do think, as I said in a speech in Dudley, I do think perhaps there are lessons we need to draw from this… maybe there are some times when we need people to be able to move faster, project speed is of great value I think to the workings of our civil service.

“And we certainly won’t be shy of reform where it is necessary.”

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