Downing Street unable to clarify PM’s claim about government test and trace system

PUBLISHED: 15:28 15 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:04 15 July 2020

Boris Johnson wears a mask as he poses for a Twitter picture. Photograph: Twitter.

Boris Johnson wears a mask as he poses for a Twitter picture. Photograph: Twitter.

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Downing Street has issued a statement saying it cannot back up claims Boris Johnson made over the UK’s track and trace programme at Prime Minister’s Questons (PMQs).

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Johnson claimed the UK’s test and trace service was “as good as or better than” other system around the world.

He was taking questions on a published report commissioned by government advisers warning that there could be 120,000 hospital deaths in a “reasonable worst-case scenario” if the disease rebounds in winter.

The report from the Academy of Medical Sciences said action must be taken now to mitigate the potential for a second peak of Covid-19, including scaling up the test and trace system.

At PMQs, Johnson said: “Our test and trace system is as good as or better than any other system in the world and, yes, it will play a vital part in ensuring that we do not have a second spike this winter.”

But Number 10 said it could not back up those claim with evidence.

MORE: Boris Johnson suggests he hasn’t read report detailing risk of second wave of coronavirus

The prime minister’s official spokesman instead said: “We’ve talked in recent weeks about the number of people who test and trace have been identifying.

“As of last Thursday, it had reached more than 144,000 close contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus who might have otherwise unknowingly have spread the virus.”

During the fiery exchange in the Commons, Sir Keir said the percentage of people contacted and asked to self-isolate had gone down since the programme was launched.

“It’s perfectly possible to support track and trace and point out the problems,” he told the prime minister.

“Standing up every week and saying it’s a ‘stunning success’ is kidding no-one - that isn’t giving people confidence in the system.

MORE: PMQs: Keir Starmer accuses PM of putting ‘rhetoric’ ahead of the people

“They would want a prime minister who stands up and says ‘There are problems and this is what I’m going to do about them’ - not this rhetoric about ‘stunning success’ when it’s obviously not true.”

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