PIERS Morgan this morning ripped into ministers for failing to explain WHY Britain can’t test as many people for coronavirus as Germany.
The Good Morning Britain host lost his temper with Robert Jenrick, who couldn’t explain why the UK wasn’t able to get 500,000 tests done like other countries have managed.
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Ministers have promised to “ramp up” testing to 15,000 a day by the end of the week, and 25,000 a day by the middle of April.
But at the moment just under 10,000 tests are being done a day, as a furious row broke out over who is to blame.
The PM faces mounting fury as thousands of NHS workers are still being forced to self-isolate at home as the peak approaches, because they don’t yet know if they’ve caught the virus.
Piers Morgan said it was a “complete disgrace” that countries such as Germany were able to do ten times as many tests as we are.
Housing Secretary Mr Jenrick said the Government was working with manufacturers across the world to get the crucial parts for the tests, which he said we are short of.
Yet the chemical industry has denied there are shortages, and urged ministers to ask them to produce more if there are problems.
Mr Jenrick said there was obviously a huge demand for the tests at the moment, with every country scrambling to get its hands on them.
Fellow GMB co-host Susanna Reid added: “When the World Health Organisation said, ‘test, test, test’, why didn’t we get up and running like Germany?
“What is the reason other than that we just weren’t prepared?”
He replied: “I don’t think that is a fair analysis… it isn’t easy to procure tests in a global pandemic.
“Germany is more able to get tests – different countries have different manufacturing strengths.
“With ventilators you will see the strength of British manufacturing coming though.”
Piers accused the Government of going into a crisis with “our hands behind our backs”.
And the minister admitted: “On each of these fronts there is a lot to do.”
“I am not pretending this is going to be easy.”
The minister later told BBC Breakfast that a lack of chemicals was a reason for the lack of testing.
“We produce a number of ingredients but not all of them have always been in the quantity we need in the UK,” he said.
“That is one of the reasons.”
In a frantic bid to quell the furious backlash over testing, hospitals have today been ordered to use any spare lab space to test self-isolating NHS staff for coronavirus so they can try and get some staff back to work.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference last night, Mr Gove said: “While the rate of testing is increasing we must go further, faster.
“A critical constraint on the ability to rapidly increase testing capacity is the availability of the chemical reagents which are necessary in the testing.
“The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary are working with companies worldwide to ensure that we get the material we need to increase tests of all kinds.”
Other ministers said Germany had been manufacturing such chemicals for years – and the UK was years behind.
“When people say ‘why can’t we do what Germany is doing?’ The answer is 70 years of industrial policy,” a source told The Times.
The Chemical Industry Association insisted reagents “are being manufactured and delivered to the NHS,” and said it is working with the Government “to clarify the exact NHS need.”
Last night one of the Government’s own scientific advisers — Imperial College London’s Peter Openshaw — said he was unaware there was any shortage.
He said: “I must say I wasn’t aware of this shortage until it was announced today.
“I mean, as far as I know there isn’t a great shortage of supply, so that’s really new to me… As far as I’m aware it should be available.”
Tory MP Tobias Ellwood pointed out that Germany had firms like Roche based in the country, which would be able to help with any shortages.
He told BBC Newsnight: “They are able to these things on site. We have a supply chain to deal with… there is a global competition for these products.”
Experts at the Francis Crick Institute and Oxford University told the Daily Telegraph that Public Health England had left them “sitting on their hands” and refused their help, too.
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Experts on a Government committee did not think there needed to be a higher level of risk just over a month before the deadly virus infected tens of thousands of Brits.
Last night a 13-year-old boy in London became the youngest victim of the coronavirus in the country.
Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, from Brixton, South West London, was rushed to King’s College Hospital in London after suffering breathing difficulties.
The boy’s family said he passed away on Monday morning without his mum or six siblings by his side due to the contagiousness of the disease.
A statement released on GoFund Me said: “Ismail started showing symptoms and had difficulties breathing and was admitted to Kings College Hospital.
“He was put on a ventilator and then put into an induced coma but sadly died yesterday morning.
“To our knowledge he had no underlying health conditions. We are beyond devastated.”