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The SNP was accused of having joined the Labour Party in opposing Government proposals to expand the UK’s coronavirus mass testing capacities. Boris Johnson announced the launch of Operation Moonshot in a bid to increase the number of daily tests to 10 million to allow Britons to return to a semblance of normality. But after being faced with demands for clarifications on the strategy, Health Secretary Matt Hancock challenged the Scottish party about its failure to support the strategy.
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Addressing SNP health spokesmand Martyn Day, Mr Hancock said: “There were in the spring some people who complained about my determination to expand testing capacities at a record pace.
“We’re hearing some of those voices this morning out again and complaining that we want to increase testing.
“Both the SNP and the Labour Party opposite are making a huge mistake in opposing mass testing.
“It’s an incredibly important tool in our arsenal.”
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Mr Day had earlier questioned Mr Hancock on the viability of Operation Moonshot after representatives from the British Medical Associaition cast doubts on the plan’s deliverability.
The SNP MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk said: “We heard the Prime Minister describe his Operation Moonshot as the ‘only hope’ of avoiding a second national lockdown.
“Already some experts have described this mass testing strategy as being fundamentally flawed.
“Does the Secretary of State think the Prime Minister is gambling on something that the experts feel cannot be delivered?”
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Mr Hancock reported the NHS had already increased testing capacity in recent weeks while admitting to having initially faced challenges in rolling out the necessary schemes.
He said: “We’ve increased capacity by over 10,000 tests a day over the last fortnight and while there have been challenges in access to tests, the vast majority of people get their tests rapidly and close to home.
“The average distance travelled to a test site is 6.4 miles and 90% of people who book a test travel 22 miles or less.
“We already have more than 400 testing sites in operation, we added 19 next week and plan 17 more this week.”
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He also reiterated Britons experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should book a test after on Wednesday lamenting an “abuse” of testing capacities.
Mr Hancock continued: ” I am clear about the eligibility for testing and it is really important that people hear that message that if you have symptoms, of course you should get a test, we urge you to get a test because we need to find out if that is Covid, for your sake and for everybody’s.
“But at the same time, it is important that people who are not eligible do not come forward for those tests because otherwise you’re taking a test away from somebody who has symptoms.
“And yes, absolutely I want to solve this with ever-more capacity, but I also want to make sure the tests are used by the right people.”
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