“Coronavirus is creating an economic crisis &, for far too many, a deepening social crisis. But it can’t be resolved without addressing the public health crisis.”Richard Burgon MP
The Coronavirus is the greatest crisis many of us have ever lived through. It is essential that we back the government when it does the right thing – and even more essential that we pressure it when it is failing to do what’s needed. Lives literally depend on it.
One area we need to keep the pressure up on is the failure to implement sufficient levels of Coronavirus testing. Even frontline NHS staff can’t access enough tests.
So I was shocked earlier today, when tuning in to PMQs, to hear Boris Johnson claim that his government “is massively increasing our testing campaign from 5,000 to 10,000 to 25,000 per day”.
At PMQs last week he also made the same claim.
Though I wish it were, unfortunately, it simply isn’t true.
Each day Public Health England publishes stats on the number of tests taken. One week ago there had been 56,221 people tested. It was 90,436 by Tuesday 24 March (the latest figures at the time of writing). That increase of 34,215 is a daily average of 5,700. That’s way short of what Boris Johnson has been claiming.
Testing is essential to winning this battle. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has stressed the importance of testing saying: “We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test”.
And other countries are already testing at much higher levels than we are.
South Korea has so far carried out 357,000 tests (as of 25 March) and Germany over 200,000. In comparison, the UK’s 90,400 tests is woefully inadequate. Adjusted for the number of tests per million people it’s five times fewer tests than in South Korea.
Coronavirus is creating an economic crisis and, for far too many, a deepening social crisis. But it can not be resolved without addressing the public health crisis.
That means the government has to ramp up the number of tests. The Prime Minister needs to urgently turn his words at PMQs into action.