Coronavirus: Jeremy Corbyn slams ‘ludicrous’ lack of testing for NHS staff

Jeremy Corbyn has described the lack of testing of frontline NHS staff as “ludicrous”, as the outgoing Labour leader took aim at the government for being too slow to scale up COVID-19 testing in the UK.

Mr Corbyn, who will stand down as the Labour leader on Saturday, said Mr Johnson told him at a meeting three weeks ago the government was going to rapidly scale up coronavirus testing from 5,000 tests a day but had failed to follow through.

“It seems to me that the facilities of government to get that testing done have simply not been effective,” he told Sky News in his final sit down interview as Labour leader.

“The fact that we are not yet even testing 10,000 people a day is very, very serious indeed.

“There are almost half a million people working in the NHS care sector, even they have not yet been tested.

“It is ludicrous. We have got to get on top of testing.

“The problem is the government was too slow to do that, they didn’t buy the test kits in.

“And now we have a real problem. I hope it can be resolved, very quickly.”

Earlier, Downing Street said it had finally reached its target of 10,000 daily COVID-19 tests on Tuesday, with 10,412 carried out on that day in NHS and Public Health England laboratories.

Speaking during a conference call with journalists earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman added that the government was working on a number of measures that would allow for “hundreds of thousands” of tests to be carried out each day.

The Labour leader also said the huge economic stimulus and investment package put together by the Conservative government in recent days proved “the free market can’t fight coronavirus”.

And Mr Corbyn said the huge expansion of the state in recent weeks proved the validity of his election pitch, his socialist policy platform and Labour’s economic model.

“I don’t think you can say we lost the argument,” he said, reflecting on losing two general elections as Labour leader.

“I think we’ve put forward the arguments and in many ways what is happening now over coronavirus proves the validity of the arguments we put forward.”

He added: “I was condemned in November for wanting to invest in the economy, to invest in decent pay and to pay important workers like cleaners properly.

“Now the government has at last understood that the only way we’ll get through this crisis is by investing in all aspects of our society and our economy.

“So when we come out of coronavirus, let’s not go back to our old ways.”

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