Boris Johnson has promised that all coronavirus tests will be “turned around” within 24 hours by the end of the month, as he defended the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The prime minister made the pledge in response to a question from his former Conservative leadership rival Jeremy Hunt.
“We already do 90% of tests turned around within 24 hours,” Mr Johnson told MPs.
“Of the tests conducted at the 199 testing centres, as well as the mobile centres, they’re all done within 24 hours and I can undertake to him (Mr Hunt) now to get all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that.”
The pledge came during the weekly clash between Mr Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
This week’s instalment saw the PM defend the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and featured a number of pointed attacks exchanged by the pair.
Sir Keir claimed Mr Johnson’s use of statistics was damaging public trust in his government, prompting the PM to hit out at the Labour leader’s “endless attacks on public trust and confidence”.
Sir Keir responded by saying Mr Johnson was “confusing scrutiny for attacks”, adding: “I have supported the government openly and I’ve taken criticism for it, but boy he makes it difficult to support this government over the last two weeks.”
The Labour leader claimed the PM had refused an offer to work together on building a consensus on the reopening of England’s schools, something that was disputed by Mr Johnson.
And in a return to the kind of attacks seen in previous sessions of PMQs before the coronavirus pandemic, the PM said of Sir Keir: “Our policy is test, trace and isolate, his policy is agree, U-turn and then criticise.”
Beginning his questioning of his opposite number, Sir Keir referenced a newspaper report which said Mr Johnson has decided to “take direct control” of the virus response.
He asked: “So an obvious question for the prime minister, who’s been in direct control up until now?”
The PM said in response that he took “full responsibility for everything this government has been doing” and that he was “very proud of our record”.
He rejected criticism from the Labour leader that the test, track and trace system was not yet fully operational.
Mr Johnson said the system had been established from a “standing start”, with “40,000 people engaged in this”.
“Every person who tests positive in this country is contacted,” the PM told the Commons.
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