‘Money is no object’ in coronavirus fight says health secretary

Health secretary Matt Hancock answering questions from the media via a video link during a media bri

Health secretary Matt Hancock answering questions from the media via a video link during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture:10 Downing Street/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Spending money is “no object”, the country’s health secretary said as he aimed to harness more companies to expand testing across the UK.

Matt Hancock made several appearances today addressing the pledges he announced on Thursday evening during the daily press conference at Downing Street, including a five stage plan to testing, writing off £13bn of hospital debt and increasing the number of daily tests to 100,000 by the end of the month.

The health secretary, who returned to work yesterday a week after confirming he had coronavirus, described having the virus as a “pretty unpleasant experience”.

Read more: Five-step plan for testing as government promise to escalate testing to 100,000 a dayHe said: “For me it was short-lived and I was able to come back to work yesterday and I’m in full health. But it is worrying. I’ve lost half a stone, it’s quite a serious impact directly. But thankfully for me I could get through it.”

Asked about whether the government should have expanded the use of other laboratories for testing more quickly than it has done, he said: “I’m sure there will be lots of discussion about what could have been done differently and we’re constantly asking the question what can we now do better? That’s the question that matters.”

He told BBC Breakfast: “One of the things that we can do more is harnessing the companies that aren’t traditional testing companies and making sure that we give every possible support to those who can expand testing.

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“Money is no object here, what matters is getting the country out of this situation as quickly as possible.

“The historians can crawl over what we’ve done. All I can say is hand on heart at each stage I’ve done everything I possibly could, but then new ideas come in and new thoughts come forward.”

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Mr Hancock said the commitment to get to 250,000 tests a day eventually “still stands” but he had wanted to “put a very clear timeline” on the goal to get to 100,000 by the end of the month.

NHS England announced today two further NHS Nightingale hospitals will be built in Bristol and Harrogate.

He said around 1,500 healthcare staff are being tested daily, with more than 5,000 now seen, and the numbers would be “ramping up fast” as more test centres open over the weekend.

Read more: Coronavirus: Treasury announces further Covid-19 support for firmsHe added: “At the moment we think that there are around 35,000 frontline NHS staff who aren’t in work due to coronavirus. The number is much smaller than some of the anecdotal evidence that we’ve been hearing, although of course there may be pockets.”

He said “over the next couple of weeks” the testing figures for frontline staff “should” rise to thousands a day.

He added: “But I don’t want to make a commitment that I can’t meet and that’s why when I was asked about it yesterday I said by the end of the month.”

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