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Matt Hancock: We are 'certainly not taking our foot off the accelerator' with testing
16 April 2020, 09:18
Matt Hancock has told LBC that the government is "certainly not taking its foot off the accelerator" when it comes to coronavirus testing as he stood by his assertion that 100,000 daily tests will be performed by the end of the month.
Matt Hancock told Nick Ferrari that "we're very much working to reach that target" of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
"That's what my whole testing team are working on," he continued. "I've got an amazing team working flat out to hit that goal."
However, he also admitted that "not as many people as expected" came forward for testing over the Easter weekend.
When pushed on the fact that only 15,000 tests had been performed one day this week, rather than the initial goal of 25,000 per day, Mr Hancock said: "I have made clear the goal of 100,000 by the end of the month and we have a whole team of testers ready to go."
The Health Secretary announced at the beginning of April that 10,000 tests will be performed per day by the end of the month.
These can be made up of antigen tests that tell people whether they currently have Covid-19, as well as antibody tests to see whether people have previously had the infection.
Mr Hancock was also grilled on his announcement last night that family members will be able to go into hospitals and care homes to see loved ones in their final moments.
At the number 10 briefing, he said he wants to see families to be able to "say goodbye" to relatives in hospitals and care homes who are dying of Covid-19.
New government guidelines will ensure coronavirus victims in care homes will be able to have family members by their side in their final moments "wherever possible."
He also announced new procedures to allow families to grieve for their loved ones at funerals.
When asked how this can be achieved, Mr Hancock said: "There are guidelines around how loved ones can see somebody in their final moments. This is very difficult because of the nature of the disease and so it will be different in all different sorts of settings.
"If you think about the 15,000 care homes we have in this country they are all different and what we have done is working with the sector said that the principle is there that people should be able to see their loved ones and with a combination of very careful nursing and isolation where necessary this will be done safely on the ground."
When asked if PPE will be provided to the relatives, Mr Hancock said: "If that's necessary, appropriate and available then yes."
Ferrari then challenged the Health Secretary, saying: "But we don't have enough PPE for the staff Mr Hancock."
Hancock responded: "Well we are expanding the PPE available and of course there are still some areas where there are problems but there is still a huge amount being delivered.
"I know that there are still concerns but this moment at the end of somebody's life is unbelievably important to their loved ones and I think we should be sensitive about it.
"I've been really touched by some of the stories of people who have come to me. I talked about Ismail, the 13 year old boy who died with no family around him, but some people have also come to me privately explaining what has happened."
Mr Hancock said the death of Ismail "made me weep" and so the families of victims will have the right to say goodbye.
"Wanting to be with someone you love at the end of their life is one of the deepest human instincts," he continued.
In addition, Mr Hancock also spoke about his plan for social care workers to have access to a "single brand" badge that will grant them access to similar perks enjoyed by NHS staff.
"This badge will be a badge of honour in a very real sense, allowing social care staff proudly and publicly to identify themselves, just like NHS staff do with that famous blue and white logo," Mr Hancock said.
"I know that many businesses will want to offer the same recognition and benefits as they do wonderfully to the NHS."The government now plans to strengthen the national recruitment campaign to get more people working in the care sector.
Asked whether he knew a badge to recognise carers had been launched before, Mr Hancock said: "Yes, we were picking up the Care England logo and turning it into a national symbol of support for our care workers.
"And of course this comes alongside the increased delivery of PPE and increased testing."
Mr Hancock added that the badge has "practical consequences as well", including care workers being able to attend priority shopping hours at supermarkets.
Questioned on reports that care home providers will have to buy badges for £1.20, Mr Hancock said: "I'm not aware... I'll look into that."
He added: "Well... OK, I'll look into it. But the thing is that most care providers are private sector organisations whereas the NHS is in the public sector and that sometimes explains some of these apparent differences..."
Mr Hancock continued: "I will absolutely look at that. But the point I was making is we pay for things differently through a contract in those parts of social care.
"So it's a technical difference as opposed to a real difference, but because of the symbolic value of the badge, I will absolutely look at that point."