Robert Peston: Is Michael Gove right that there is a shortage of coronavirus test kit ingredients?
Michael Gove has said the difficulty in increasing the number of Covid-19 tests is due to a shortage of the relevant "chemical reagents".
Asked about testing for NHS staff at the Government’s daily coronavirus briefing at Downing Street, Mr Gove said: “We are increasing the number of tests.
“One of the constraints on our capacity to increase testing overall is supply of the specific reagents, the specific chemicals, that are needed in order to make sure that tests are reliable.”
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Well I've just talked to the Chemical Industries Association, which represents the UK's very substantial chemicals industry.
It has contacted its members, and they've said there is no shortage of the relevant reagents.
So the Association has now been in touch with Mr Gove’s office to find out what he means, because it is stumped.
The Association also points out there was an industry chat with a business minister on Tuesday, who made no attempt to find out if there was a supply problem for the vital ingredients of Covid-19 testing kits.
So this question of why there aren't enough tests for the virus is an even bigger mystery.
Also, if it turns out there is a shortage, these manufacturers are more than happy to increase their production.
But they need to be asked, which has not happened.
PS. It was Labour MP Bill Esterson who initially spotted this gap between what Gove said and what the industry believes to be true.
PPS. So a government source says - which is true - that there is a global shortage of the reagent. As it happens, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said this a couple of weeks ago, as has head of CDC in US. But that still doesn't explain why Chemicals Industry Association thinks its members, could help find a solution if asked by the government.
And it also doesn't explain - as I pointed out in a PM press conference earlier in the month - why the government didn't forward plan by buying stocks of ingredients for the testing kits weeks ago, before demand from rich countries soared.
The point is that if the government is thinking out of the box for the manufacture of ventilators, potentially placing huge orders with the likes of F1's McLaren, Mercedes and Dyson, why not do the same for Covid-19 tests?
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