British Health Secretary Defends COVID-19 Testing, Restrictions
By VOA News September 15, 2020
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared before Parliament Tuesday to defend the government's response to recent surges in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hancock told members of Parliament the virus is surging in Britain, and the infection rate is on the rise. As a result, the demand for testing has risen, and the government was prioritizing who could get tested first.
"The top priority is and always has been acute clinical care. The next priority is social care, where we're now sending over 100,000 tests a day, because we've all seen the risks this virus poses in care homes," Hancock said.
Hancock said Britain's testing capacity is being expanded, and currently has the capacity to process about 243,000 coronavirus tests a day, up from 220,000 at the end of August.
Responding to complaints that people were being sent to testing centers far from their homes, Hancock said, "The vast majority of people who use our testing service get a test that is close to home. And the average distance traveled to a test site is now just 5.8 miles, down from 6.4 miles last week."
Hancock also defended the government's new "rule of six" that went into effect Monday in England, Scotland and Wales. The rule prevents gatherings of more than six people in public venues. But there has been a myriad of exceptions to the new rule, which has caused confusion among many.
For example, the rule applies to pubs but not schools or workplaces. Hancock said they tried to keep the rule as simple as possible and said they will show flexibility in some areas. He also said they will keep the rule of six in place "only as long as it is absolutely necessary."
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