Tony Blair gives surprise backing to Hancock’s test and trace plan – ‘Absolutely right!’

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The former Labour Prime Minister backed the Conservative Government over the use of “moonshot” coronavirus testing techniques. Mr Blair told the BBC’s Adam Fleming that coronavirus testing techniques are increasingly improving on specificity and sensitivity.  

Mr Fleming said: “Matt Hancock this morning is announcing that the Government is ploughing loads of money into some more trials one of which is mass testing In Salford, In the North West and using these saliva tests so they’re much quicker and easier for people to use.

“He is basically doing what you wanted him to do isn’t he?”

Mr Blair replied: “So this is good.

“What Matt Hancock is talking about and what Dido Harding is trying to do with this test and traces, these are obviously absolutely the right things.

“I mean it is a bit late.

“We should have been backing these moonshot rapid testing devices several months ago.

“Nonetheless we are doing it and it is important and they are coming on stream now not just here in the UK but around the world.

“They are becoming increasingly better both on specificity and sensitivity all the time.”

Earlier today, Matt Hancock claimed his plan for widespread, rapid checks for the disease across the country were the best hope for easing social-distancing measures.

He said: “I hope that if this mass testing regime comes off, if the new technologies we’re working so hard on work, or we manage to get a vaccine between now and then – which we can’t rule out – then I hope we can have the happy and loving Christmas that people yearn for.

Mr Hancock also claimed the NHS Test and Trace programme was a key reason why the UK was not suffering a similar new surge in coronavirus cases as other European nations.

“In other European countries we’re seeing this big second spike. Here the cases are broadly flat, partly because of our Test and Trace system working so effectively, partly because of the quarantine and the social distancing policies.”

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Mr Hancock defended the testing regime as working “well” despite reports that some people being directed to centres more than 100 miles from their homes for the checks.

“At the moment the system works well. Of course there are operational challenges from time to time but it works well.

“And we’re finding a higher and higher proportion of people in the country who have coronavirus and getting them tests so they can be looked after.

“But absolutely we need to roll out more testing – we have done throughout this crisis and today’s another step in solving some of those problems with the existing technology.”

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