Good morning. Boris Johnson has got PMQs later and it will be surprising if he does not get asked about his promise to set up a “world-beating” test and trace system given the fact that the testing crisis seems to be escalating, at least according to the newspaper front pages. Just take a look …
It is often assumed that Johnson promised a “world-beating” system in an off-the-cuff response at PMQs, but in fact he first used the phrase in his Sunday night TV address to the nation on 10 May. He said:
If we are to control this virus, then we must have a world-beating system for testing potential victims, and for tracing their contacts. So that – all told – we are testing literally hundreds of thousands of people every day.
Ten days later at PMQs, when Sir Keir Starmer said he would settle for one that was just “effective”, Johnson repeated the promised with an added timescale, telling MPs: “We will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating, and yes, it will be in place by 1 June.”
That hasn’t quite materialised, and this morning the consequence were vividly highlighted when a teaching union said the unavailability of tests could lead to a “lockdown by default”. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told the Today programme that headteachers were being forced to decide that the “bubble has to stay at home” if a pupil or teacher in a year group had shown Covid-19 symptoms and could not get a test to prove they were negative. He went on:
This will feel I think like lockdown by default – it will be more frustrating for parents because you can’t predict whether it is going to happen. And similarly from the headteacher’s point of view, if my year 4 teacher today shows symptoms, will he or she be in school tomorrow, will they be here for the next 14 days? As soon as you start to get that with six, seven, eight teachers, it becomes unsustainable to be able to run things.
Barton also quoted from a head teacher who had emailed him overnight to say they felt “hoodwinked” by the government. Barton summarised the message from the head in the email as this:
I feel that everything we put in place – the one-way systems, the bubbles and all of that, we have done – but now we are being tripped up by the fact that, whether it’s a child or a member of staff, they simply can’t get a test and it’s leaving us in a position of me not know whether I can staff some of those lessons tomorrow, or indeed for the next two weeks. It’s infuriating.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10am: Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, gives evidence to the Commons Northern Ireland committee about the Northern Ireland protocol, and the internal market bill that would empower ministers to override it.
10am: Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, gives evidence to the Commons education committee.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, at PMQs. Sir Keir Starmer is at home self-isolating.
12.15pm: The Scottish government is expected to hold its daily coronavirus briefing.
1.30pm: Downing Street holds its lobby briefing.
3.30pm: Johnson gives evidence to the Commons liaison committee.
And at some point today the government is publishing its sentencing white paper. Jamie Grierson and Owen Bowcott have previewed what will be in it here.
Politics Live has been doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog for some time and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, like Brexit, and where they seem more important and interesting, they will take precedence.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
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