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The SNP politician suggested the Health Secretary should “copy the successful efforts of the devolved teams” in tracking down contacts of coronavirus patients. But Matt Hancock shamed Ms Whitford’s efforts to create “divisions” between the UK Government and the devolved administrations. Addressing the Commons, he pointed out: “She asked about isolation, of course isolation is important and I would just mention to the Honourable Lady that right across the UK we have test and trace systems in place.
“There is a difference in how a successful contact is measured it turns out.
“In England, we are much stricter on requiring a contact to be a confirmed contact of somebody, rather than sending a message, that doesn’t count as a contact in the English system but it does count as contact in some of the devolved systems.
“So it’s really important that we actually measure the same thing rather than trying to make divisions where divisions don’t exist.”
In his opening statement to MPs, the Health Secretary said testing capacity is “the largest in Europe” and “twice-weekly” tests will now be rolled out to NHS workers.
He told the Commons: “We have been driving forward testing capacity based on new technologies and old. Yesterday our PCR testing capacity stood at 517,957 – the largest capacity in Europe.
“Over 10 million people in the UK have now been tested at least once through NHS Test and Trace and our NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app is now approaching 20 million downloads.”
The Health Secretary said NHS staff will be tested twice a week for COVID-19.
He added: “These tests allow us from today to begin rolling out twice-weekly testing for all NHS staff which will help keep people safe when they go into hospital and help keep my wonderful colleagues in the NHS safe too.”
The Health Secretary said he has written to 67 directors of public health about providing “10 percent of their population per week” with tests.
Matt Hancock told the Commons: “The next step is to roll out this mass testing capability more widely.
“So I can tell the House that last night I wrote 67 directors of public health who have expressed an interest in making 10,000 tests available immediately and making available lateral flow tests for use by local officials, according to local needs, at a rate of 10 percent of their population per week.
“That same capacity – 10 percent of the population per week – will be made available to the devolved administrations too.
“By combining the local knowledge of public health leaders with our extensive national infrastructure, we can tackle this virus in our communities and help our efforts to bring the R down.
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“Testing provides confidence and it is this confidence that will help get Britain back on our feet once more.”
Mr Hancock also said that if the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is approved, the UK will be ready to begin a large-scale vaccination programme.
He told the Commons: “If this or any other vaccine is approved, we will be ready to begin a large-scale vaccination programme. First to priority groups, as recommended by the independent joint committee on vaccination and immunisation, before rolling it out more widely.
“Our plans for the deployment of a Covid vaccine are built on tried and tested plans for a flu vaccine, which we of course deploy every autumn. We do not yet know whether or when a vaccine is approved, but I have tasked the NHS with being ready from any date from December 1.
“The logistics are complex, the uncertainties are real and the scale of the job is vast, but I know that the NHS, brilliantly assisted by the armed services, will be up to the task.”
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