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Jeremy Corbyn slams ‘ludicrous’ coronavirus testing levels and blames austerity for NHS strain

Jeremy Corbyn criticised the level of coronavirus testing in the UK (Sky News)

3 min read

Jeremy Corbyn has branded the levels of testing for coronavirus carried out so far as “ludicrous” and claimed he warned Boris Johnson of the issue three weeks ago.

In his strongest criticism of the Prime Minister’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak so far, he said “10 years of austerity” had contributed to the problems the NHS is facing over beds, ventilators and protective equipment.

But the outgoing Labour leader’s comments come as a new poll suggests for the first time in nearly a decade, Britain approves of its government.

A survey by YouGov gives Mr Johnson’s administration a net approval of +26, the highest they have ever recorded in the 1,400 times the question has been asked since 2003.

It is a huge turnaround for the Tories since last summer, when at the end of Theresa May’s tenure just one in ten people approved of the Government, compared to more than 70% who disapproved.

But Mr Corbyn said the PM had not acted fast enough to deal with the pandemic, telling Sky News if Labour had won the election and was currently in charge: “I hope we’d have started onto it more quickly and recognised the seriousness of it from the World Health Organisation warnings that were sent out in January from China, and recognised that the only way to get on top of it is by knowing how severe it is, and that means testing."

He added; “The fact that we are not yet even testing 10,000 a day is very very serious indeed, there are almost half a million people working in the NHS, in the care sector, even they have not yet been tested.

"It is ludicrous, we have got to get on top of testing.”

Asked if all the blame lay with the Government, he said: “It has obviously been a very fast moving crisis, we do have to bring it under control. Testing is a very, very important way out of it.

“But also the superhuman efforts of people throughout the NHS, to free up beds, to bring staff back, to bring retired staff back.

“And now to open three new hospitals is wonderful and we should applaud them, but we shouldn’t have had 10 years of austerity, when we ended up with 94% bed occupancy in the NHS, and obviously a difficulty in coping because of that.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to unveil fresh Government action on testing on Thursday afternoon, amid mounting criticism of the rate at which frontline staff are being checked for coronavirus.

Asked if he was irritated Mr Johnson had not ramped up testing fast enough, he replied: “It irritates me a great deal, when nearly three weeks ago [shadow health secretary] Jon Ashworth and I met him to raise the very point with him, saying the importance of getting on top of testing.

“And it seems to me the facilities of the Government to get testing done have simply not been affective.”

Asked what the PM said at that meeting, Mr Corbyn said: “He said that at that time we were testing at 5,000 a day and it was going to increase as quickly as possible.

“Here we are now all these weeks later, we’re not even yet reaching 10,000 a day.

"And it’s apparently because there is a shortage of test equipment because the NHS was not able to purchase it when it needed to, because they seemed to be running on the idea that it wasn’t necessary to test.

“How can you possibly have an idea of how many people have CV unless you test?”

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