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Keir Starmer labels missing Covid cases 'intergalactic incompetence'
7 October 2020, 14:41
Sir Keir Starmer has said there was “intergalactic incompetence” over the missing Covid test results during a fiery clash at Prime Minister's Questions.
The Labour leader criticised the Prime Minister over a recent testing data error which stopped almost 16,000 coronavirus cases being passed to NHS Test and Trace.
The error has resulted in thousands of people "walking around when they should have been self-isolating", Sir Keir claimed.
Sir Keir said some of the missing cases in Greater Manchester date back to September 18, telling the Commons: "It's now much harder to contact people after so long, the contacts of the 16,000.
"Even if they're contacted successfully, for many the self-isolation period has already expired. Thirdly, important decisions on local restrictions were made using the wrong data.
"£12 billion has been invested in this system yet a basic Excel error brings it down - no wonder it's been described as intergalactic incompetence."
Sir Keir asked why it took "so long to catch this error", to which Boris Johnson said: "The crucial thing is, yes, of course, there has been an error, but the data points that we're looking at, the cases don't change the basic distribution of the disease.
"Although the cases in the country are considerably up across the country this week on last week, the seven-day statistics show that there are now 497 cases per 100,000 in Liverpool, 522 cases per 100,000 in Manchester, 422 in Newcastle.
"The key point there is the local regional approach combined with the national approach remains correct because two-thirds of those admitted into hospital on Sunday were in the North West, North East and Yorkshire."
Sir Keir Starmer asked the Prime Minister to publish the evidence that shows there is a scientific basis for the 10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants, and to "review the rule" if he cannot do so.
Sir Keir said: "The Prime Minister can't explain why an area goes into restriction, he can't explain what the different restrictions are, he can't explain how restrictions end - this is getting ridiculous.
"Next week, this House will vote on whether to approve the 10pm rule. The Prime Minister knows that there are deeply-held views across the country in different ways on this. One question is now screaming out: is there a scientific basis for the 10pm rule?"
Boris Johnson replied: "The basis on which we set out the curtailment of hospitality was the basis on which he accepted it two weeks ago - that is to reduce the spread of the virus and that is our objective."
On Labour abstaining from the vote on the rule of six policy on Tuesday, he added: "What kind of a signal does this send to the people of the country about the robustness of the Labour Party and their willingness to enforce the restrictions?
"That is not new leadership, that is no leadership."