Jacob Rees-Mogg: Stop 'endless carping' about getting coronavirus tests

17 September 2020, 14:33

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

People need to be "reasonable" and stop the "endless carping" about the difficulty of getting coronavirus tests, Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.

The North East Somerset MP told the Commons on Thursday that it is "quite right" for people who have family members that develop Covid-19 symptoms to self-isolate.

He referenced both himself and the Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer who both spent time away from the Chamber while they awaited the test results of their respective children.

The Conservative parliamentarian then said people should stop the "endless carping" about the difficulty in getting tests in recent weeks.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted to the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday that the UK "does not have enough testing capacity" as the current system stands.

His admission followed an investigation into the availability of tests by LBC which found there were no tests available for the top 10 hotspots in England and, on Wednesday, only two of the 48 English hotspots had tests available for people trying to book via the government website.

Read more: 'We don't have enough testing capacity', Boris Johnson admits

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Jacob Rees-Mogg said people should stop the "endless carping" about test availability
Jacob Rees-Mogg said people should stop the "endless carping" about test availability. Picture: UK Parliament

In the Commons on Thursday, Mr Rees-Mogg was responding to shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz who asked why the government's head of the "Test and Trace" programme, Dido Harding, has not spoken in public since August.

Ms Vaz said: "Now I know that there is a health statement later, but where is the chair of the Test and Trace programme? She's made no statement since 19 August.

She added: "So the number of tests returned within 24 hours has fallen from 68% to 8% - it seems to be all talk, talk and no test, test."

The Commons leader replied: "We all have an obligation to try and stop the dangerous disease spreading, but the issue of testing is one where we have gone from a disease that nobody knew about a few months ago to one where nearly a quarter of a million people a day can be tested.

"And the prime minister is expecting that to go up to half a million people a day by the end of October.

Read more: Boris Johnson - tough action needed now to avoid new lockdown

Read more: Testing, testing... Govt announces urgent review after LBC probe

"And instead of this endless carping, saying it is difficult to get them, we should actually celebrate the phenomenal success of the British nation in getting up to a quarter of a million tests of a disease that nobody knew about until earlier in the year.

"That is a success of our scientists, our health experts and of our administration. And yes, there's demand for it, yes demand exceeds supply but it is growing, the supply is increasing and what has been done is really rather remarkable and something we should be proud of."

Alex Norris MP, Labour’s shadow minister for public health and patient safety, called Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments "out-of-touch".

He said: “For weeks, people across the country have been struggling to get coronavirus tests. But rather than fixing problems, the government have instead resorted to a blizzard of blame-shifting and excuses.

“Now, out-of-touch ministers have got a new message to those who can’t get tests: ‘stop complaining and praise us’.

“Jacob Rees-Mogg should immediately apologise. Whining about the public not being grateful enough won’t sort anything - only his government can fix the testing shambles they are presiding over.”

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