Matt Hancock – The Health Secretary has defended the Government’s ambitious mass Covid-19 testing proposals in the face of laughter and heckling in Parliament.
Matt Hancock hit out at the “naysayers” in the House of Commons when outlining the “Operation Moonshot” plans; which would see millions of UK-wide tests carried out daily.
Earlier on Thursday a leading statistician warned that hundreds of thousands of people could be unnecessarily told to isolate under the proposals.
But Matt Hancock said he is “absolutely determined that we will get there” and is looking forward to rolling out the programme; which will aim to provide mass testing using saliva and other methods which can deliver results within 20 to 90 minutes.
He explained that the approach is being piloted and steps are being taken to verify the new technology ahead of a desired nationwide roll-out.
Amid heckling, he told MPs: “I’ve heard the naysayers before and I’ve heard the people on the other side complain we’ll never get testing going – and they’re the same old voices.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to rolling out this programme and this work; which has been under way for some time already, I’m absolutely determined that we will get there.
“And if everything comes together, and if the technology comes off; it’ll be possible even for challenging sectors like theatres to get closer to normal before Christmas.”
People “ordering too many tests”
Earlier this week Hancock moved to shift the blame on the British public for the latest coronavirus testing debacle.
The Health Secretary said there has been a surge in people seeking “inappropriate” Covid-19 tests; when they have not got symptoms.
One school sent a whole year group for tests, which is “not appropriate”, he added.
Matt Hancock also described how some people who were going on holiday had sought to get tests; which is “not what the testing system is here for”.
Many people who tried to access a test on Wednesday morning were met with the error message: “This service is currently very busy. More tests should be available later. If you cannot book a test now, or the location or time are not convenient; try again in a few hours. Warning: Do not call the helplines – you will not be able to get a test this way.”
The free tests are available to people with symptoms of coronavirus – a fever; new and continuous cough or a loss or change in sense of taste or smell; and for some others such as those who have been instructed to do so by a doctor; or local council and some essential workers.