A business minister has defended Tory peer Baroness Harding’s handling of the government Test and Trace scheme, claiming she is doing a “very difficult job really well” and is working 19-hour shifts every day.
Nadhim Zahawi was asked to give his verdict on Harding’s leadership of the key Covid-19 prevention programme after senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkin called for her to be removed.
The latest official figures showed fewer than 60% of the contacts of people testing positive for Covid-19 were being traced and told to self-isolate.
But Zahawi told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “I think she’s doing a very difficult job really well. I sit on the local action committee where we go through the data on Test and Trace and how well the system is working. It can always get better, as the prime minister has said…
“It’s been a difficult time but we can only improve further as we work together, and I think Dido has led the team in an incredible way.
“She is working seven days a week, 19 hour days. This is a joint effort by many, many people, who work with Dido and are delivering the Test and Trace system.”
He said the achievements of Dido Harding’s scheme were to be “commended”.
Viewer Paul McGarraghy tweeted: “If I were working that many hours a day in a week and failing so miserably, I would be asking myself if this is really the right job for me, and I’d expect my employers would too”.
Twitter user Tee quipped: “I’m currently working as an electrician – 140 hours a week – I’ve no training, no knowledge and no expertise. It’s unfortunate that every job I do goes wrong in some way but I am trying – can’t understand why my clients aren’t very pleased?”
Peter Conde wrote: “No she is doing a normal job really badly,. Really really really badly.”
Boris Johnson is said to have “full confidence” in Harding.
His official spokesman said: “I think we’ve certainly set out before that the Prime Minister continues to have full confidence in Dido Harding.
“NHS Test and Trace has built a testing capacity of over 360,000-a-day from a starting point of 2,000-a-day in March – that is a bigger figure per head than in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. 1.1 million have been contacted and told to self-isolate.
“But as you’ve also heard the prime minister say, the system does need to improve especially in terms of the turnaround times for tests and we expect that to happen.”
He said staffing levels were being increased and that more automation would allow for more tests to be carried out “in order to drive improvement”.