‘Same old, same old!’ Labour shamed by Matt Hancock in Commons row over COVID testing

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The Health Secretary addressed MPs in the Commons to outline the latest coronavirus regulations but when he promised to deliver on the Prime Minister’s latest “Moonshot” testing campaign, Labour MPs on the opposite benches jeered at Mr Hancock. He promptly interrupted his statement to hit back. 

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He said: “Mr Speaker, I’m going to depart from my script because I’ve heard and they say as before, and I’ve heard the people on the other side complain that we would never get testing going.

“And they’re the same old voices, the same old voices they opposed the 100,000 tests.

“And did we deliver that? Yes, we did.

“They’re saying what about the testing in care homes? Well, we delivered the testing in care homes earlier this week.

“They are against anything that’s needed to sort this problem for this country and they would do far better to support their constituents and get with the programme.

“And I’m looking forward to rolling out this programme.”

Mr Hancock said the new restrictions will not be kept in place “for any longer than we have to”.

Discussing the new “rule of six”, he told MPs: “As the chief medical officer said yesterday, we must learn from the recent experience of countries like Belgium who successfully put in place these measures to combat a similar rise in infections.”

Mr Hancock added: “These are not measures that we take lightly. I understand that for many they’ll mean changing long-awaited plans or missing out on precious moments with loved ones, but this sacrifice is vital to control the virus for the long term and save lives.

“And I vow that we will not keep these rules in place for any longer than we have to.”

Matt Hancock also pleaded with university students to “follow the rules”.

He told MPs: “Our goal as much as possible is to protect keeping schools and businesses open whilst controlling the virus.

“The data show that whilst the cases amongst 17-30-year-olds are rising, the number of cases amongst the under-16s remain very low, and we all know how important it is to keep schools open.”

On universities, Mr Hancock added: “The Department for Education has published the updated guidance for universities on how they can operate in a Covid-secure way, and this includes a clear request not to send students home in the event of an outbreak in order to avoid spreading the virus further across the country.

“If you are a student who is about to return to university or go to university for the first time then please, for the sake of your education and your parents’ and grandparents’ health, follow the rules and don’t gather in groups of more than six.”

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The Health Secretary told MPs that the average distance people have to travel to a coronavirus test site is 6.4 miles.

He said: “We’ve increased capacity by over 10,000 tests a day over the last fortnight and while there have been challenges in access to tests, the vast majority of people get their tests rapidly and close to home.

“The average distance travelled to a test site is 6.4 miles and 90 percent of people who book a test travel 22 miles or less.

“We already have more than 400 testing sites in operation, we added 19 next week and plan 17 more this week.”

Mr Hancock added that “if you do not have symptoms and haven’t been asked then you are not eligible for a test”.

Before Mr Hancock’s statement, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said: “The Secretary of State and I did have a conversation and meeting last night. Just to say I think we’ve got some new arrangements going forward to help the House.”

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