New ‘R’ rate increase caused by Tory test and trace “fiasco”, says Labour

Andrew Kersley

Labour has described the increase in UK coronavirus cases as “deeply worrying” rise and suggested that the rise is a result of the government creating a “fiasco” in testing and contact tracing across the country.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth slammed Tory “incompetence” after it was announced today that the reproduction ‘R’ rate had increased to at least 1.2, which means the number of cases is rising.

A stark rise in Covid-19 infections this week has led to new local lockdowns in Birmingham and Bolton, and research from Imperial College London has suggested that the UK R rate could be as high as 1.7.

Responding to the news, which has sparked fears of a fresh national lockdown being imposed in the coming months, Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said: “The increasing prevalence of Covid-19 is deeply worrying.

“At the start of summer, we warned ministers that an effective test, trace and isolate regime was needed ahead of the autumn. Rather than following our advice ministers have created a fiasco in testing and contact tracing.

“It’s now urgent that an effective locally-led public test, trace and isolate service is put in place to drive infections down and keep people safe. The Conservatives’ incompetence cannot hold Britain back from defeating the virus.”

Official documents that were leaked this week revealed that the government is pinning its hopes on a ‘Project Moonshot’. It plans to run 10 million Covid tests a day by early next year, which could cost £100bn.

The Shadow Health Secretary has questioned the viability of the ‘Moonshot’ programme, saying the country is “fed up of undelivered promises” on Covid testing and will not want “another failed project”.

Labour has also criticised the government’s failures on test and trace after it was revealed that private firms brought in by the Conservatives were significantly worse at contact tracing than their publicly run alternatives.

Recent data showed just 60% of people who had been exposed to someone with coronavirus were contacted by Serco, one of the outsourcing companies, compared to 80% being reached by local public health teams.

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