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Starmer warns government is failing to test 10,000 people a day, in first PMQs as Labour leader

SIR KEIR STARMER used his first Prime Minister’s questions (PMQs) today to warn that the government would fail to keep its promise to test 100,000 people a day for Covid-19 by the end of April.

Just 18,206 tests were carried over 24 hours on Monday – but the government has repeatedly vowed to test 100,000 people a day by a week from now.

Mr Starmer, who was elected Labour leader earlier this month, questioned how that target would be met, pointing out that less than half of the currently claimed 41,398 daily testing capacity was being used.

He added: “Last week, the Health Secretary [Matt Hancock] said that every care worker who needed a test would get one. But the reality on the ground is very different, and there are very few tests indeed.”

Mr Starmer said that low take-up of the tests could be attributed to the “obvious problem” of NHS and care workers not being able to access the drive-through test centres dotted across the country.

He said care workers in Leicester were being asked to go to a test centre in Nottingham, a 45-minute drive away.

Mr Starmer continued: “Not all care workers have access to a car.

“Because they have symptoms or family members who have got symptoms, they obviously can’t use public transport, so it’s little wonder we are seeing pictures of half-empty testing centres.”

De facto interim PM Dominic Raab, standing in for Boris Johnson while he recovers from coronavirus, said that ministers were working with commercial partners to reach 100,000 tests a day.

The Foreign Secretary claimed that there was lower demand for testing than expected, adding: “We encourage those who can take the test to come forward.”

The government is using mobile labs, the army and key workers to “distribute the tests,” he continued.

Mr Raab rejected Mr Starmer’s suggestion that the government would fail to meet the 100,000 target, saying that ministers were making “good progress” and he was “confident we will meet it.”

He hit out at Welsh Health Secretary Vaughan Gething for “abandoning” a target of 5,000 coronavirus tests a day, but Welsh Economy Minister Ken Skates described Mr Raab’s criticism as “misguided” and “wrong.”

Many MPs took part in PMQs from home via video link after a motion for a “virtual” Parliament was passed on Tuesday.

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