Boris Johnson was accused of making mistakes over the Covid-19 tracing system that could put more lives at risk amid warnings it is missing hundreds of thousands of cases.
In an angry PMQs, Labour leader Keir Starmer said of 33,000 people thought to have tested positive for the virus currently in England, only 10,000 had been reached and asked to give details of their contacts.
Mr Starmer said: “If two thirds of those with Covid-19 are not being contacted that is a big problem, because if we don’t get track, trace and isolate properly running we can’t open the economy, we can’t prevent infection spreading.”
He said the PM risked “making the mistakes he made at the beginning of the pandemic, brushing aside challenge, dashing forward, not estimating properly the risks”.
Mr Johnson also came under pressure from his own party, with former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claiming that around 250,000 cases had been missed since the launch of NHS Test and Trace.
Mr Hunt, who is chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee, spoke in the Commons demanding a “dramatic expansion of testing”.
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He said: “We don’t know where about two thirds of the new
infections are happening. We’re contacting about 700 people a day to get their contacts, but there are about 2,500 daily new infections.”
He said with each case estimated to have nine contacts, that meant “up to a quarter of a million people” had been missed since the process started.
He said “Beijing-levels of testing” would mean the UK could test every NHS frontline worker once a week.
Mr Johnson also came under fire over the NHSX tracking app, which cost £11.8million before being ditched in favour of Apple and Google software.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth told the Commons: “Months wasted, £11.8million confirmed as down the drain.” Referring to Matt Hancock’s app, which offers updates on the Health Secretary’s work, Mr Ashworth said: “We are now in the dismal situation where there is an app for himself but there is not even an app for Covid. You couldn’t really make it up.”
Mr Ashworth said the Government had been “playing catch-up” since it abandoned testing and tracing on March 12. He added Mr Hancock “couldn’t even tell us how many people were being tested on a daily basis”.
Mr Johnson defended his test- and-trace programme, insisting systems were in place to respond to fresh outbreaks as England prepares for the widest easing of lockdown yet.
He claimed a “cluster-busting operation” would tackle localised outbreaks.
He said: “NHS Test and Trace is contacting the vast majority of those who test positive and their own contacts, getting them to self-isolate, and it is a formidable achievement.”
Mr Johnson claimed no country had yet developed a successful contact tracing app, even though Germany’s has been downloaded 12 million times.
Health leaders yesterday called for an urgent review to ensure Britain is properly prepared for a second wave.
Bernard Jenkin, Tory chairman of the Commons Liaison Committee, said: “It is essential that the UK is prepared.”
SAGE member Prof John Edmunds said reducing the social distancing to “one metre-plus” and opening pubs and restaurants increased the risk that transmission would “take off again”.
He said: “We have to be really vigilant. This is where the test-and-trace system needs to be really working well.”