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Health Secretary taken to task over Covid hotspots being left with no testing capacity

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth asks government why there are no tests available in 10 hotspots including Rochdale, Pendle and Bradford

LABOUR took the government to task today over coronavirus hotspots in Britain being left with no available testing capacity.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, during an urgent question in the Commons, asked why there were no tests available in 10 hotspots including Rochdale, Pendle and Bradford.

He said that last weekend in Bolton, which has the highest infection rate in Britain, a mobile testing centre failed to turn up, meanwhile hundreds of people in Bury queued for five hours for a test.

In Walsall, a father with his sick child travelled 76 miles to an appointment in Wales only to find tests had run out, Mr Ashworth added.

He said the need for an efficient test and trace system is imperative now schools have reopened, people have returned to workplaces and the number of new infections has exceeded 3,000 a day for the first time since May.

Just as demand for testing is increasing, the ability to process tests is decreasing, Mr Ashworth said.

He asked why his government counterpart Matt Hancock didn’t use the summer to “significantly expand NHS lab capacity and fix contact tracing” by planning ahead to prevent lab-staff shortages.

He urged him to also answer why tests are being shipped to labs in Germany and Italy when the government promised a “world-beating system.”

Data shows that there is a backlog of 185,000 tests to be analysed. The weekly number released last Thursday shows that 65,709 test results were not returned by the end of the week. 

Care home residents are waiting an average of 83 hours for their test results, Mr Ashworth said.

PM Boris Johnson had promised a turnaround of 24 hours.

Mr Ashworth added: “The Secretary of State is losing control of this virus.”

In response, Mr Hancock said that the government is “working around the clock” to increase capacity, but admits that there are “operational challenges.”

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