UK coronavirus live: Minister admits more testing capacity needed for care homes | Politics

Hunt admits he should have done more to develop testing capacity as health secretary

Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, joining the blog for the day.

In his Today interview this morning Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary who now chairs the Commons health committee, said that in the past the government, including when he was in cabinet, had failed to build up testing capacity. He explained:

I think the practical thing that we can all see needed to have happened was to make sure that everyone discharged from hospitals into care homes was tested for Covid before they were sent to a care home. But because we didn’t have that testing capacity at the time, it wasn’t possible to do that.

In retrospect, and I have responsibility for this as someone who was health secretary for six years, because we were over-focused on pandemic flu, and not on pandemic Sars-like viruses, we haven’t been thinking for some time about the importance of testing.

And had we done that, and that’s why I think transparency over scientific advice is so important, then maybe some of these things could have been avoided.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt. Photograph: House of Commons/PA



The extraordinary boom in civic action that has seen more than a million new volunteers step up to help out in their communities during the coronavirus crisis is disproportionately concentrated in wealthier areas of the UK, according to an all-party MPs committee.

The MPs warned that while the crisis has produced “an outpouring of neighbourliness and mutual aid” in many areas, it had also seen marginalised individuals become more isolated, especially in poorer neighbourhoods. “If lockdown is a shared experience we have all been aware it has not been experienced equally,” the report by the all-party parliamentary group on social integration said.

Supplies are sorted at the Goose Green Mutual Aid and Southwarks Pecan food collection point held at OruSpace in East Dulwich, London, during the coronavirus pandemic on May 4, 2020

Supplies are sorted at the Goose Green Mutual Aid and Southwarks Pecan food collection point held at OruSpace in East Dulwich, London, during the coronavirus pandemic on 4 May 2020. Photograph: John Phillips/Getty Images

The surge in volunteering, including 750,000 applicants for the NHS first-responder scheme, was lauded by Boris Johnson as a sign of “incredible public spirit” and proof that Margaret Thatcher was wrong to claim there was “no such thing as society.”

But the report says Mutual Aid Groups, the social media-led local networks that have sprung up in recent weeks to help vulnerable people isolated by the lockdown were more likely to be found in “close knit” smaller towns with already strong civic traditions.

These informal groups were less prevalent in deprived areas of cities that suffered from income and social inequality, including a number of so-called “left behind” communities, the report said.

It identified 25 areas it said had relatively low levels of mutual aid group coverage, including Sunderland, Hull, Doncaster, Nuneaton, Stoke-on-Trent, Dartford, Knowsley and Oldham.

It said the government needed to do more to tackle digital divides to ensure that the most marginalised communities were not excluded from vital services vital to accessing Covid-19 support, from universal credit to health and care advice.


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