Monday 21 December 2020 / 10:30 PM Business / Coronavirus / Rachel Reeves

Labour urges Government to use spare COVID testing capacity in ports chaos

As delays mount at the UK border and COVID cases rise, Labour today calls on the Government to implement testing at ports in order to protect manufacturers, supermarkets and the NHS, by using spare capacity in the £22 billion COVID testing system.

Setting out a plan for the coming weeks, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves says that border chaos shows that the Government must now “end the dither and delay and take decisive action” in order to “ save lives and secure the economy.”

Reeves also tells the PM to “finally sign his long-delayed trade deal with the EU so the Government can turn its full attention to the developing COVID crisis, and end this uncertainty for businesses.”

Labour has urged the government to follow its plan aimed at reducing infection rates and stopping chaos at our borders, including:

  • Urgently directing sufficient mobile testing centres and spare testing capacity to ports in order to secure the economy and protect the NHS
  • Finding international solutions to get borders open for freight
  • Giving councils and local public health teams a key leadership role in contact tracing and data, and start using “retrospective” contract tracing to contain the spread of infection and avoid more areas falling into Tier Four
  • Ensuring that people can afford to self-isolate by providing adequate financial support
  • Publishing widespread advice on ventilation in homes, workplaces and public buildings.

Labour also calls on the Government to bring back daily press conferences, in order to level with the public and create as much transparency and confidence as possible. Labour will support any plans to recall Parliament, which should ensure MPs do not unnecessarily travel between tiers and public health is prioritised.

Reeves says that failure to heed warnings now will see cases rise rapidly across the country, putting our NHS under even more pressure and increasing strain on families and businesses.

According to the Government, current unused testing capacity is around 300,000 tests per day. Over December on average, it only used 50 per cent of its entire testing capacity.  With around 6,000 freight drivers passing through the border per day, the UK’s capacity is more than enough to have daily tests at ports.

Over £22bn has been allocated to the Government’s national Test and Trace system, which is more than the combined budgets of the policing and fire service.

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said:

“The Government itself has admitted it has lost control of the virus. The Prime Minister must end the dither and delay, and take decisive action to save lives and secure the economy.

“The Government should follow Labour’s plan and get to grips with the situation. Failure to do so will put our NHS under even greater pressure, and increase strain on already stretched families and businesses.

“The Prime Minister must also finally conclude his long-promised trade deal with the EU so the Government can turn its full attention to the developing COVID crisis. This is an emergency: there must be honesty from this government and no more distractions or ducking tough decisions.”