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Keir Starmer tells Boris Johnson to 'take responsibility' amid rise in Covid cases
8 September 2020, 18:22 | Updated: 8 September 2020, 19:10
Sir Keir Starmer has told Boris Johnson to take responsibility amid a rise in coronavirus infections, warning that the test and trace system is "on the verge of collapse.”
The Labour leader said on Tuesday that the Prime Minister should have used the summer to get a "very effective" test-and-trace system running.
But Sir Keir instead pointed to a series of its failings, after a senior official in the scheme in England apologised to those who have been unable to get tested.
A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokeswoman insisted test and trace "is working", but acknowledged there is a "significant demand" for tests and capacity was being targeted at the areas that need them most.
The Labour leader said: "Everybody is deeply concerned about the rise in the rate of infection.
"As we reopen the economy, as children go back to school, this was always going to be a risk, we understand that."
The Government, he said, should have used recent months where the NHS was not under great strain from infections to get a proper test-and-trace system in place.
"What we're now seeing is stories over the past few days that is showing the testing regime is on the verge of collapse," he said.
"Heartbreaking stories from people who need a test being told no tests are available.
"Or the website is crashing, or people are being told to go miles and miles for a test.
"Nobody can argue that that is good governance."
He continued to support the principles of the Government's coronavirus restrictions, saying he did not want to "undermine" messaging during the pandemic.
But he criticised the Government's own messaging as "confused".
"We're seeing this increase in infection rate, that's the time the testing regime needs to work and it's not working and the Prime Minister needs to take responsibility," Sir Keir added.
His warnings came after there were a further 2,948 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Monday, following the 2,988 reported on Sunday, which was the largest daily figure since May.
The Government's top medical advisers have warned that the public must take Covid-19 seriously again or face a spike in cases.
The DHSC spokeswoman said: "NHS Test and Trace is working, our capacity is the highest it has ever been and our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week.
"We are seeing a significant demand for tests, but if you have symptoms we urge you to get tested. New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily and you can help protect yourself if you wash your hands, cover your face and make space.
"We are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups - and we recently announced new laboratory facilities and new technology to process results even faster."