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DIANE ABBOTT slammed Boris Johnson for the “utterly brazen” claim yesterday that the government’s inability to source and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) has been “enraging” for him.
The former shadow home secretary pointed out that shortages of PPE during the coronavirus crisis are “entirely” Mr Johnson and his government’s responsibility.
Mr Johnson made the comment when he faced Sir Keir Starmer in Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) for the first time since the latter became Labour leader earlier this month. Mr Johnson had been off sick for three weeks after contracting the coronavirus.
Mr Starmer said “clearly there are ongoing problems” with PPE and that “it is obvious that this problem is going to get even more acute if and when the government asks people to return to work.”
Mr Johnson is believed to be set to relax lockdown rules in an announcement on Sunday.
Mr Starmer asked him whether he could reassure the public that they won’t be asked to return to work until there is a “very robust, national plan for protective equipment.”
The PM replied that he “certainly” can, adding that the government is “engaged in a massive plan to ramp up domestic supply” of PPE.
Mr Starmer also referred to recent data showing that at least 29,427 people in Britain have lost their lives to Covid-19, which is the highest number in Europe and second highest globally after the US.
He asked the PM “how on Earth did it come to this?”
Mr Johnson described the statistics as “appalling” but added: “At this stage I don’t think international comparisons and the data are yet there to draw the conclusions that we want.”
After PMQs finished, 32,898 deaths were registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.
Mr Johnson echoed what Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove suggested on Sunday — that there could be a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak.
He also told the Commons that a “fantastic” testing regime will be critical to long-term economic recovery, and announced that the government now has a target of 200,000 Covid-19 tests per day by the end of May.
This is despite having only once met its previous target of 100,000 per day by end of April, and only when changing the rules to include tests sent to people’s homes and ones conducted at drive-though centres that had yet to return results.
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