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Health Secretary Matt Hancock appears on GMB after 201-day government boycott

After 201 days of the government boycotting Good Morning Britain, Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared on the show today. 

Piers Morgan began the interview by asking Matt if he supported the boycott on the show and he said: “I was asked last week to come on and I said I’d come on as soon as I could and here I am. We haven’t been away. I’ve been working incredibly hard, building the testing capacity we’re talking about today, expanding the number of tests that are available, making progress on the vaccine which is really good and we’ve got more good news about another vaccine going into trials today. That’s what I’ve been working on and obviously this is a critical period in the crisis. That’s what I’ve been working on.”

Piers then gave a long list of perceived government failures and U-turns, including lack of PPE, lack of testing in care homes and allowing 20 million people to fly into the UK, and asked Hancock why he hadn’t offered his resignation as health secretary.  

“Because we’ve been building the response to all of these enormous challenges of this unprecedented pandemic, I’ll just pick out a few of that long list. The first thing is on testing. We’ve hit each of the targets that I’ve set - half a million tests a day capacity now and I’m here to tell you we’re going to double that over the next few months and that means we can use testing in order to find where the virus is and crucially can get the results back faster and isolate if needed,” he explained. 

On how many people they’re testing at the moment, the MP revealed: “The number for the last week is just over 1.5 million, the number of tests done yesterday was the highest ever - 379,900, but I won’t rest with that, we’re still driving it upwards.” 

On not hitting the target to test 100,000 people by the end of April, he said: “The target was set to have 100,000 tests a day and we delivered that… Firstly, the goal I set was that we would have 100,000 tests a day, we met that target. And then we set the goal of 500,000 capacity because it’s the capacity that really matters…what matters more than all of this is throughout this whole period, we’ve been constantly learning, watching and being vigilant about how we can improve the response. It hasn’t been easy.” 

He added: “Of course we’ve made mistakes, absolutely. I’ll give you one that really matters. When we first put out the guidance for funerals in the first peak, it was interpreted as being so tight that even your spouse couldn’t go to the funeral of someone who died of coronavirus. That was wrong and we changed. Absolutely we’ve been learning.” 

On not shutting down the borders sooner, Hancock said: “We have brought in the strict controls that we now have, which means we can have the quarantine for countries that are high risk.”

Piers then challenged again that the border control happened too late. “One of the problems with the disease that we learnt about is that is passes on asymptomatically, whereas most coronaviruses passed on only when people had the symptoms and that has a big implication because instead of just watching out for people who have symptoms, we need to be careful every single person can pass it on even if they don’t have symptoms,” he said.

On the challenge of those in care homes not being able to have visitors, the MP revealed the answer is the expansion of testing. “Honestly, my heart goes out to people in this situation and I totally understand where they are. Keeping people safe from coronavirus in care homes is so important and at the same time making sure that people in care homes can see others and can have visitors, I want to see that as well.”

He added: “The advice was there wouldn’t be asymptomatic transmission and we discovered that can happen, we brought in the rules for care homes. The challenge is how do we keep people safe from coronavirus in care homes and how do we allow them to see visitors. The answer to this is the expansion of testing.”

On why the government isn’t rolling out testing to every care home, he said: “That’s what we’re going to do and I hope to have that done by Christmas. The reason we’re doing this carefully is because we have to protect people in care homes….I’d rather take a couple of weeks now to get those protocols right so that we don’t have this choice.”

He added: “It’s about how to do it safely in all 16,000 care homes which is a very large number and making sure we can do it in all different settings. It’s so important.” 

On parking charges for NHS staff, he said: “We don’t have parking charges in English hospitals and we’re not going to for the course of this pandemic and that’s the case.” 

On bringing the parking charges in on December 1, he revealed: “There are not those charges now and once the pandemic is over, we will no doubt return to this question.”

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