Michael Gove appears to blame China over lack of UK coronavirus testing | Politics

Michael Gove has appeared to lay the blame for the UK’s lack of mass testing on China, raising the prospect of increased diplomatic tension between the two countries.

Some of China’s reports on the virus were unclear about the “scale, nature and infectiousness” of the disease, the cabinet minister told the BBC.

Asked on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show why Britain did not have sufficient testing, despite the first case in China being known about in December, Gove said: “We’ve been increasing the number of tests over the course of the last month.

“It was the case … [that] the first case of coronavirus in China was established in December of last year, but it was also the case that some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this.”

The Mail on Sunday reported that senior Downing Street officials and ministers expect a “reckoning” with China over misinformation in relation to the outbreak. It also claimed there was anger over perceived attempts by China to exploit the crisis for economic gain.

Gove announced that the UK had reached its initial target of testing 10,000 people a day for coronavirus. The aim is to raise the rate to 25,000 a day, but he did not give a timeline.

Asked why there was still no fixed date for the rollout of mass testing , he said only that the government was setting the NHS Nightingale field hospital to free up the capacity of the equivalent of 50 hospitals.

It was put to Gove that Germany was carrying out half a million tests a week while NHS workers in the UK still did not know when they would get a test.

He said: “It’s certainly the case that the Germans have had success in testing. The acceleration here in the UK is significant. If one looks at, and this is not the way to look at it, but if one looks at a league table then the UK is rising up it.

“We’ve managed to test significantly more of our citizens as a percentage than some other countries but frankly the most important thing is not to look backwards but to look forwards and to do everything that we can to increase the number of tests.”

UK’s coronavirus lockdown will be in place for significant period, says Gove – video

The UK lockdown was expected to continue for a “significant period”, Gove suggested in another interview, and he said he was unable to give a fixed date on when it would end. The expected date of the peak of the disease was also unknown, he said.

Speaking to the Sophy Ridge on Sunday show on Sky News, he said: “As a result of the social distancing measures the government has implemented, we hope we can reduce the rate of infection, but at this stage we just need to make sure everyone observes those rules.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, told the same programme that up to 20% of health workers were out of the workforce because they were self-isolating, and testing was needed as soon as possible.

She said: “I believe [testing] should have happened sooner but we are where we are and we need it now. So nurses are every day carrying out services to patients or care and treatment to patients and they will be less than one metre away, so they particularly need to know whether the person they are dealing with, whether they themselves, have been infected with Covid-19 so that they can take the appropriate time off but also protect themselves and their families.”

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