Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government minister clashed with Emily Thornberry during last night’s BBC Question Time over the availability of the test for coronavirus in the UK. Ms Thornberry, the shadow foreign affairs minister, seemingly attempted to draw an irony over the UK’s lack of testing despite it having created the test other countries are using.
It came as Mr Jenrick attempted to set out the government’s most up-to-date coronavirus policy after being attacked by The Lancet’s Richard Horton over a lack of direction.
Mr Jenrick said: “The government’s policy is very clear and that’s that we need to all play a part by staying at home.
“That’s the best way to protect the NHS, and that’s the way within all our of power we can help to save lives.”
Mr Horton exclaimed: “Yes but it’s six weeks too late.”
Here, Ms Thornberry took the opportunity to deal Mr Jenrick yet another blow, and said: “I accept it’s government policy now, but don’t you agree with me its ironic that as a country, we invented the test, but we seem to be the country without it.
“Everybody else seems to be able to test an yet Britain is testing so little.”
To this, Mr Jenrick replied: “I don’t think that’s fair, there are countries that have tested more than we have, but the testing programme we have is broadly similar to a number of other major developed countries.”
Mr Jenrick replied: “We’re trying to ramp up production as fast as we possibly can.
“I think everyone can understand that the NHS, the department for health, are working as hard as they can.
“There is reason to believe that the testing programme will step up quite significantly in the next week or so.”
Meanwhile, hospitals across the country struggle to grapple with the constant influx of coronavirus patients.
Last week, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust became the first hospital to admit it was turning coronavirus patients away and sending them to larger hospitals nearby.
The government called on Britons to volunteer to play their part and help alleviate pressure on the NHS by delivering food and medicines, driving patients to appointments and phoning the isolated.
Some half a million people signed up, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling them that they could now plan an “absolutely crucial” role.
Dr Jenny Harries admitted that the UK could face six months in lockdown, with some, but not all, measures currently in place being imposed until September.
Leading health experts, however, suggested that the peak of the virus could pass by Easter.
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London explained that if the current lockdown proves to be successful, the demand for intensive care units should peak within two or three weeks.
He eased fears over the NHS being exhausted, and yesterday told MPs he is confident the health service will remain “within capacity”.
He added that strain would “peak in approximately two to three weeks and then decline thereafter”.