Tories under fire after urging supporters to apply for coronavirus tests to help hit target

PUBLISHED: 13:53 29 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:59 29 April 2020

Matt Hancock's e-mail about coronavirus tests to party supporters. Photograph: Twitter.

Matt Hancock's e-mail about coronavirus tests to party supporters. Photograph: Twitter.

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The government has been accused misusing mailing lists to urge people to get a coronavirus test to help hit their target.

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Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street. Stefan Rousseau/PA WireHealth and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The email - circulating on Twitter - was sent out to a Conservative party mailing list on Wednesday urging people who feared they had the coronavirus to get tested.

In it, Matt Hancock advises of a testing ramp-up and encourages over 65s and anyone who has to travel to work, including those in the household, to apply for a swab.

Jim Waterson, a Guardian journalist, posted his copy on Twitter, writing: “Conservative party mailing list being used to try to hit the 100,000/day testing target.”

Users were less than impressed. POLITICO’s technology correspondent Mark Scott suggested the ploy was illegal: “According to the law, they need people’s consent when they reuse mailing lists for purposes that were not the reason why people handed over their emails in the first place.”

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Under new EU data laws, mailing lists can not be reused for different purpose without first informing recipients.

Others were more critical. Daily Mirror associate editor, Kevin Maguire, tweeted: “Desperate. Party political game to save a health secretary’s face at the public expense and possibly tests for people who need them.”

Michael Brownhill commented: “It’s not about the health of the people it’s about Hancock’s embarrassment!”

Some have backed the move, calling on Labour to follow suit. Kevin Hawkins said: “Surly the Labour Party and all other parties should be doing the same to allow the message to reach the maximum population, to my mind it’s you that’s playing party politics by criticising this.”

The government is trying to hit a target of 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of April. On Tuesday, Matt Hancock extended who could access the test adding all care homes workers and residents were now eligible.

So far, capacity stands at 73,400 while 43,453 tests were carried out on Monday. The government expects to reach its testing goals by early May.

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