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Wed, 8 July 2020

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Coronavirus: Jeremy Hunt demands answers from Boris Johnson over 24-hour test and trace target

Coronavirus: Jeremy Hunt demands answers from Boris Johnson over 24-hour test and trace target

Jeremy Hunt has written to the Prime Minister over the pledge

2 min read

Jeremy Hunt has demanded Boris Johnson provide an update on his plan ensure coronaviurs test results are delivered within 24 hours by the end of June.

The Health Committee chair has urged the Prime Minister to respond to "urgent questions" about the pledge, warning the quick turnaround was needed to ensure the test and trace system was effective.

Earlier this month Mr Johnson had told MPs he had "absolutely" set a target to ensure tests were delivered within the 24 hour window by the end of June, except when facing "difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that".

But ministers later came under fire after they were forced to admit the pledge would not cover tests which had been sent out in the post.

And in a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Hunt, the former health secretary, said he was "concerned" that he had received no official confirmation that the plans would be in place by the end of the month.

"Test and Trace needs rapid turnaround of test results to be effective so I am concerned that I have still not had a reply to my earlier letter to the Prime Minister asking for data on 24 hour test turnaround," he said on Friday.

"Today I have written again asking him to confirm that we are on track to meet his 24 hour turnaround target by the end of June.

"I am also asking for a commitment from the Government to publish a daily breakdown of the number of results returned within 24 hours to increase public confidence in the system."

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt said he had also failed to get a response to the plans from Baroness Dido Harding, the head of the test and trace programme.

The letter comes after leading scientists, including Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, said a quick turnaround on tests was necessary to ensure the UK could clamp down on the virus as lockdown measures are eased further.

But Mr Hunt said the 24 hour target was "absolutely essential" to ensuring the tracing system could function correctly, saying any further delay would make it "impossible" to keep up with the spread of infections.

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