PRITI PATEL suffered an intense grilling on BBC Radio 4 over the Government’s failure to meet the increasing demands of coronavirus tests as the deadly virus continues to grow in the UK.
The Home Secretary was confronted by BBC Radio 4’s Today host Mishal Husain over the Government’s coronavirus testing capacity. But as the BBC host claimed the Government’s efforts were still failing to meet the increasing demands for tests, Priti Patel was forced to defend Boris Johnson’s team in a fiery radio clash. She said: “Coronavirus is increasing and therefore the demand is increasing as well for testing.
“What the Government is doing, working with Public Health England in these hotspot areas where we had local lockdowns, is absolutely making sure that you book in slots for testing and home testing kits and mobile testing facilities are being made available.”
But the BBC host blasted: “It’s not enough, Home Secretary. If all of that was enough, then we wouldn’t have these problems being reported right now.
“Let me put to you one email that came to us on this programme this morning from someone who is a GP who is married to an intensive care consultant.
“They have a child with COVID symptoms that first became apparent last Thursday. They have tried repeatedly to book a test of Gov.Uk. There is nothing.
“They can’t go to work.”
The Home Secretary hit back: “New booking slots are being made available on a daily basis for people with symptoms.
“And that capacity is increasing every single day.”
As Ms Husain pointed out the Government was still “behind the curve” and asked the Home Secretary whether they are planning to “ration” tests for those who should be regarded as priority, Ms Patel replied: “Well, look. I’m not going to go into issues of that nature. The fact of the matter is that our priority has been constantly to bolster and increase testing capacity in the areas where they need it the most.”
The Home Secreatry claimed testing capacity is at the “highest level it has ever been” and is increasing “every single day”.
Can’t see this Brexit poll? Click here to open in your browser
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson told BBC Breakfast that the NHS “simply can’t spare members of staff waiting for tests, not being able to come into work” and patients unable to get tests.
“There is a significant impact and a growing impact on the NHS, and that is a problem,” he said.
“Nobody knows how widespread this problem is, nobody knows how long it’s going to go on for, nobody knows, for example, given that there are scarcities of tests, about who’s going to be prioritised for those tests that are available.”
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, who has been overseeing the Government’s antibody test programme and advising ministers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that a “second wave” of COVID-19 had led to a surge in demand for tests.
He said: “I think what’s going wrong is the second wave.
“A month ago they had spare capacity in testing – significant spare capacity – but I think what has been underestimated was the speed at which the second wave would arrive, but also the pressure put on the system from children returning to school, and the testing demands associated with that, and people increasingly out and about.
“So, I think they are definitely behind the curve in terms of getting the necessary tests for what we need today.”
Sir John said there would be a “significant increase” in testing capacity over the next two weeks.
“But this will get worse because of course we haven’t hit winter yet – we haven’t all started to sniffle, get fevers, get colds, and that’s going to add additional confusion to the problem,” he said.
“The demand will go up. The real question is whether they can get supply in a position where it can outpace demand, and that’s the challenge at the moment.”