Lack of testing for care workers is ‘dreadful’ - Norfolk MP
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Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis admitted it is “dreadful” that care workers who want coronavirus testing are unable to get access.
The Northern Ireland secretary was interviewed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, where he came under sustained pressure from Piers Morgan.
After speaking about raising “capacity” for testing, which Mr Morgan described as “meaningless”, Mr Lewis conceded it was dreadful more people were unable to get tested.
Mr Lewis said: “I’m agreeing with you, Piers. I think it’s dreadful that we can’t get more people tested.
“That’s why it’s important we do upscale the ability for people to access these tests, both with more test centres, the ability to have the tests at home, and the ability to apply for them directly rather than having to apply through their employer, which has been slowing things down.”
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On the total number of people who have been tested Mr Lewis was unable to supply a figure, before an exasperated Mr Morgan revealed it was 13,000.
Mr Lewis had previously come under fire on BBC Breakfast where testing was raised by presenter Charlie Stayt.
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Asked how many people had been tested yesterday after the government pledged to test 100,000 a day, Mr Lewis confirmed 20,000 tests had been completed and the capacity stood at 40,000.
The response prompted Mr Stayt to ask for further clarity over the figures as well as details on additional measure by the government to ensure the pledge was met by the end of the week.
Mr Lewis said: “A couple of things are changing. First of all, you’ve got to have the capacity to satisfy that level of demand and we’ve seen that growing exponentially once you get production geared up. That is why it has moved so quickly from literally 0 to 2000 now to 40000 and upscaling to 100,000 by the end of the month.
“We are expanding the number of tests centre from 27 to 50 over the next few days by the end of the month. And also looking at how we can get the testing to people at home so they don’t have to go to a test centre and also expanding beyond just front line NHS workers to care homes, residents and front line emergency staff.”
Meanwhile, on the subject of PPE which Mr Stayt labelled an ‘absurd and alarming’ development to the number of PPE products exported abroad, Mr Lewis said the pandemic was a global challenge.
He added: “Lets get it clear in the context. Different places and different parts of the UK have got different levels and different parts of PPE.
“Let me give you an exampled within the UK. We have shipped 5.5m pieces of PPE to Northern Ireland. But Northern Ireland just at the end of last week sent 250,000 gowns to mainland Great Britain.”
Mr Lewis also said no new decision has been made on wearing masks ahead of a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) today.
He said: “Sage is meeting today but we haven’t yet had that advice as ministers yet. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and prejudge what will come out of Sage just yet.
“There’s no change at the moment.”