Sir Keir Starmer has accused the prime minister of “pretending there isn’t a problem” with the government’s Covid-19 testing regime.
During PMQs, Boris Johnson defended the head of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding, and said the UK is testing “more people than any other European country”.
Opening their Commons exchange, Starmer questioned why the prime minister said yesterday the Test and Trace system has “very little or nothing” to do with the spread or the transmission of Covid-19, after previously hailing it as a game-changer.
The 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.”
Starmer replied: “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 replied: “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.”