Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has called for “honesty” from the government about why its coronavirus testing strategy “isn’t working”.
The former Labour Health Secretary called for a “new approach”, as he warned that the repeated promise to “ramp up” testing was beginning to appear “vacuous”.
He told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer his criticism was not “about point scoring”, but that he was holding the government to account for promises it has made over the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have tried to be broadly supportive but when they are giving me statements on live television and they don’t deliver on them, I think it is right that I then say 'hang on a minute...your plan clearly isn't working’.
“So we need honesty about why your plan isn’t working and then we need a new approach to try to get us to where we need to be.”
Mr Burnham was referring to an exchange between himself and Health Secretary Matt Hancock over the timescale for increasing testing capacity.
Currently around 12,000 tests are being carried out per day, which is set to be raised to 15,000 “within days” and up to 25,000 by mid April - weeks later than originally predicted.
The government has put the delay in the increase down to a high demand leading to a shortage of the chemicals needed to make the tests - although industry leaders have said the chemicals are still being produced.
Ministers continue to insist they are working with experts to boost testing capabilities.
Mr Burnham concluded: “I think a new approach is need here, digging in behind the ‘ramping up’ phrase I'm afraid is not working for the government and they need to try a different approach.”
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