Transport Secretary admits the country was not prepared for the pandemic in key areas
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has admitted that the country was not prepared for the pandemic in key areas.
Appearing on Good Morning Britain via video link from Westminster, Mr Shapps responded to Piers' request for transparency over whether he thought any mistakes had been made over the handling of the pandemic.
"Only a fool would come on your programme or any programme and say there aren’t things that we could and should have done better in the years and decades leading up to coronavirus.
"This country has not had traditionally a testing capacity so we went into this crisis with the ability to test 2,000 people a day. That was it. We can now test 538,000 a day and very soon it’s going to go up to over a million because of there are two new mega labs capable of doing 300,000 each and that’s before the lateral flow tests," he said.
On the subject of the shortage of PPE earlier this year, Mr Shapps added: "We didn’t have a PPE domestic production industry. Now we have over 70% of our PPE coming from the UK...There will be plenty of lessons to learn."
Weighing in on the debate around pay rises for MPs, following Heath Secretary Matt Hancock’s refusal to confirm whether he would turn one down on yesterday’s show, Mr Shapps said that he would donate any pay rise he receives to charity.
"I think MPs should only be paid in line with what other public service workers are being paid and if we are paid a pay rise, I will pay mine to charity, that’s my position. I don’t know if there will be a pay freeze, we will have to ask the Chancellor on that one, but I do agree with you that public sector workers should include MPs in that regard… I should say actually, just for the purposes of balances, that ministers have actually had a five percent pay cut and a ten-year pay freeze, which I also support," he said.
On his announcement today that the quarantine period, post-travel, will be cut from fourteen days to a minimum of five days if people pay for a private test, he said: “The Office of National Statistics did a study of people in the quarantine category and it did show that the majority were carrying out the 14 days quarantine. They should do because the fines start at £1000 and they double up. It can be an expensive business and you can get a criminal record.”
He added: “I do recognise that 14 days is a long time for people to quarantine or self-isolate for. One of the things that we know is that if you provide a practical alternative to people, people generally want to do the right thing. You have to give them the option to be able to do the right thing. Being able to take a test means that you can do that on day five, as soon as you have a negative result, you are able to be released.”
On how they are going to enforce the cost of a private test on people and whether they will still enforce a 14-day quarantine on those who can’t afford the test, Mr Shapps said: “Yes, we are. The providers that have come forward for this test range between £65 per test and £120… I suspect we will see that being driven down by the market as more people come into this testing market. We have not said it has got to be a PCR test, which typically tend to be the most expensive ones, but what we have said is that there is a certain standard which is very exacting that they have to reach.”
Watch the full interview above.
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