'I want to know about it!' Hancock hits back at claims test and trace is still a farce

Labour MP John Cryer accused Matt Hancock of failing to get a grip of the NHS Test and Trace system. The Opposition member used an example of a constituent being told to drive 600 miles to Aberdeen to attain a coronavirus test. The Health Secretary assured that these fears were no longer founded as the issues had been resolved.

Mr Cryer asked: “Despite what the Secretary of State has said today, we’re still hearing myriad stories of people still unable to be tested.

“The worst story I’ve heard is a constituent who was told to travel 600 miles to Aberdeen to get a test.

“Now why is that the case when we’re constantly told by ministers that there’s no problem?”

The Health Secretary hit back at the challenge, adamant that the issues had been fixed.

READ MORE: Matt Hancock outlines UK’s ‘biggest challenge’ in fighting COVID-19

He told the House: “Nobody’s addressed the problems and the challenges that we’ve got in the testing system more than me.

“What we need to do is resolve those problems as we have in the large part resolved the problem of people being sent long distances.

“I’d love to know the example that he cites because I’m told that that problem in the system was fixed last week.

“If there’s a more recent example then I want to know about it.”

More to follow…

Matt Hancock savaged over coronavirus test farce by Sky's Kay Burley 'Accept it's failing!

The Health Secretary appeared on Sky News to discuss the announcement that people in England can no longer socialise in groups bigger than six following a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. Kay Burley unleashed a scathing criticism of the current test and trace system in England and questioned why some people were being forced to travel up to 250 miles for a coronavirus test.

Ms Burley said: “One of the members of independent SAGE described the testing and trace system as failing.

“It certainly is not fit for purpose at this stage.

“We spoke last week, and you said you are investing hundreds of millions of pounds more in order to improve it.

“Yet we saw a story on Twitter yesterday regarding a 250-mile round trip to Leicester is the closest place for a gentleman who needs a COVID test because he lives with his elderly parents.

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“One of my producers checked on the website and he can’t actually get a test because it says the service is very busy.

“You have to accept that at this stage test and trace is failing.”

Mr Hancock replied: “I completely reject that accusation.

“Firstly, we have the biggest testing system per head of population of all the major countries in Europe and we bult it essentially from scratch.

The death toll in Britain is currently over 41,000.

Worldwide there have been more than 27.7 million COVID-19 cases.

The death toll has reached more than 900,000.

More than 19.8 million people have recovered from the coronavirus across the globe.

EU farce: Champagne-guzzling eurocrats to splurge £677k on lavish cocktail parties

According to documents, officials at the European Maritime Safety Agency insisted on having high-quality Champagne, red and white wines served at their “VIP” soirees.  The institution, based in Lisbon, Portugal, also demanded only the “finest and freshest products” be used to create dishes served at the gatherings. It is currently inviting firms to bid for the contract to cater to “provide coffee-breaks, lunches, dinners, and cocktails for events organised at the EMSA headquarters or other venues” for the next four years.

The EMSA, a specialist European Union agency, monitors and provides safety guidance for vessels operating in and around the bloc.

“The main responsibility of the contractor is to provide healthy, balanced and tasty food options to EMSA’s staff and visitors,” the tender document reads.

“The contractor shall provide a nutritious and attractively presented selection of food and drinks that encourages healthy food choices. 

“The contractor shall strive to optimise the use of water, energy and minimise waste, reducing the environmental impact.”

The eventual winner of the contract will be asked to supply services for 17 different types of events hosted by the EU agency.

They range from basic coffee breaks with just filter coffee, tea, and water to “VIP cocktail” gatherings.

On the menu for the lavish bash: “High-level sparkling wine, good quality Port wines, whisky, gin, vodka, white and red wine, several types of beer, fresh fruit juice, still and sparkling water, mixers, soft drinks, hot and cold canapés prepared from the finest and freshest products and, to the extent possible, using Portuguese cuisine and local products”.

The spirits must all be “recognised brands” and bubbly sourced from the Champagne region in north-east France, the dossier adds.

Dinners and lunches comprise a three-course “sit-down meal” once again “prepared from the finest and freshest products”.

More frugal entertaining options include buffets with a choice of sandwiches, salads and soups.

The caterers must ensure they provide “staff dressed appropriately for the event they are catering” as well as “flower bouquets for VIP tables” and varied decorations for seasonal events, such as the Christmas party.

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A recent audit of Brussels spending also shows former EU Council President Donald Tusk’s administration forked out over €400,000 on private jets in 2019.

The figures also revealed €6,600 was spent on Champagne, €52,000 on “shooting range rental”, €21,000 on “men’s dress shoes”, €19,000 on “tent rental” for an event and €63,000 on flowers.

Express.co.uk has contacted The EMSA for comment on its spending plans.

Boris urged to force no deal Brexit – ‘This farce has gone on long enough’

The UK formally left the European Union back in January and the Prime Minister has vowed to leave at the end of the transition period, with or without a deal.

But the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Mr Barnier, believes Mr Johnson will not leave without an agreement in place.

According to former Brexit Party MEP, Rupert Lowe, the Frenchman indicated he didn’t think the UK’s no deal threats had any weight.

But the Brexiteer said he hopes Britain can “hold its nerve” against the bloc, as the talks between the two sides intensify.

Mr Lowe wrote on Twitter: “When I spoke to Barnier about Brexit, it was always clear he never actually expected the UK Government to follow through.

Boris urged to force no-deal Brexit outcome

Boris urged to force no-deal Brexit outcome (Image: Getty)

Poll results

Poll results (Image: Express)

“Has the penny dropped? I really hope Frost can hold his nerve.

“We’ve played Barnier’s game for far too long.”

As a result, the Express.co.uk asked readers whether they think Mr Johnson should call Mr Barnier’s bluff and force a no deal.

In the poll, which ran from 11am to 10pm on August 4, more than 17,000 people cast their votes.

READ MORE: Iain Dale on ‘ludicrous’ Brexit divisions and his new book

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (Image: Reuters)

An overwhelming 96 percent (16,443) urged the Prime Minister to call the EU’s bluff and leave the bloc without a deal as talks are stalemate.

One person argued it is the EU who do not want a deal and said: “The EU don’t want a deal but they want to keep us as unprepared as possible as to do the most damage to our economy and put other members off from leaving.”

Another added: “When the EU respect UK sovereignty, and stops trying to take control of our laws, our trade, and our fishing ground, then, and only the, will it be worth negotiating with them.”

A third commented: “We have to get out now with a no deal.

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Economic loss per EU member state if hard Brexit

Economic loss per EU member state if hard Brexit (Image: Express)

“It would be in the country’s best interest. It is not good to keep putting it off because it is costing our businesses and our country a fortune.

“If the EU are told now that we are definitely leaving with a no deal, then everyone would know what we are doing and act on that knowledge.”

Another person said if Mr Johnson does not walk away now he has jeopardised his chance of re-election in 2024.

A fifth person wrote: “This farce has gone on long enough, the corrupt bullies have no respect for the UK, especially the 17.4million people who could see them for what they really are.

Boris Johnson to leave EU with or without deal

Boris Johnson to leave EU with or without deal (Image: PA)

“Dictators and money grabbing mob. Barnier and his ilk will try and drag this out as long as they can, reason, more money for them to squander.

“Just walk away Boris. We will survive and we will be Great Britain again. Long overdue.”

Only four percent (732) said no and 66 people said they didn’t know.

Trade talks with the EU are currently at a deadlock, as the two sides fail to agree on three fundamental areas: fishing rights, the level playing field demand and whether the UK should remain tied to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).


Fishing has been a major issue during negotiations

Fishing has been a major issue during negotiations (Image: Getty)

Mr Barnier warned European businesses to prepare for “inevitable changes” to take place at the end of the Brexit transition period.

The EU’s chief negotiator said: “The Brexit transition ends on December 31.

“In five months, the UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union.

“Changes are inevitable, with or without an agreement on the new partnership.

“Companies and citizens must get ready.”

The European Commission has issued a 39-page dossier of preparations businesses and citizens needs to make before the end of the year.

SNP's 'bizarre' independence farce exposed as Boris mocks 'handing power to unelected EU'

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford claimed the British Government has been helping fuel support for the independence campaign with its conduct through the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Blackford suggested the proposed UK Internal Market Bill Boris Johnson devised would limit Scotland’s trade and cut the nation off from the bigger EU market. But the Prime Minister was quick to point out the bill would grant more powers to Edinburgh than the Scottish Government would have under the European Union.

Mr Johnson said: I really hesitate to accuse the Right Honourable Gentleman of failing to listen to my last answer but it is very clear that the UK Internal Market Bill is massively devolutionary.

“The 70 powers passed from Brussels down to Scotland…it’s purpose is very sensible, which is to protect jobs throughout the entire UK.

“On a political level, it seems bizarre to me that the Scottish Nationalist Party actually want to reverse that process, hand those powers back to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels.

“Is that really the policy? I don’t think it’s sensible.”

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Once the UK has left the single market and the customs union in December, the country will no longer be bound to EU regulations and Westminster is set to repatriate powers on several areas.

The devolved nations are also expected to regain full control of key sectors which however could create some internal divergence within the UK.

Mr Blackford suggested the Government is now “panicking” at the prospect of further division with Scotland fuelling support for independence.

The SNP Westminster leader said: “The Tory Party held a political Cabinet with the Prime Minister in a panic about the majority and increasing support of Scottish independence.

READ MORE: Speaker Lindsay Hoyle scolds Boris Johnson in BRUTAL Commons outburst: ‘Go to Specsavers!’

Brexit farce: How David Beckham claimed 'Man Utd won more trophies because of EU'

Brexit has divided opinion for years and will continue to do so, in spite of Prime Minister Boris Johnson taking Britain out of the EU on January 31. Tensions were arguably at their highest in the days preceding the 2016 referendum as the country appeared to come to a standstill over the most significant vote in a generation. Among the Remain campaign’s numerous celebrity endorsements was one from David and Victoria Beckham.

And the former England captain risked a backlash as he suggested Britain’s EU membership contributed to his sporting success. 

Drawing on his experience on the football pitch, he said the heart of Manchester United’s title-winning teams of the Nineties may have been English but they would not have achieved so much without the input of players from elsewhere in Europe.

He wrote on Facebook: “Now that team might have gone on to win trophies but we were a better and more successful team because of a Danish goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel, the leadership of an Irishman Roy Keane and the skill of a Frenchman in Eric Cantona.

“I was also privileged to play and live in Madrid, Milan and Paris with teammates from all around Europe and the world.

“Those great European cities and their passionate fans welcomed me and my family and gave us the opportunity to enjoy their unique and inspiring cultures and people.

“For our children and their children we should be facing the problems of the world together and not alone. 

“For these reasons I am voting to Remain.”

READ MORE: How desperate Remainers tried to claim Shakespeare

In response, Leave campaigner Michael Gove told the BBC it had the support of former England internationals Sol Campbell and John Barnes.

After the UK left the EU earlier this year, the country is currently in a period of transition amid negotiations with the bloc.

Trade talks appear to have stalled, though, plunging the UK and EU’s future relationship into doubt.

In a statement last week, an EU spokesperson said: “We are working hard to overcome the significant divergences that remain between us.

“We are working towards an agreement.”

Brexit negotiations have stalled in recent months over two key issues – fisheries and regulatory alignment.

Mr Johnson wants to fulfil a Leave campaign promise that the UK will take back control of its waters. 

But Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has warned Mr Johnson he cannot secure access to European markets without allowing EU vessels into UK waters.

Quarantine farce: Not a single fine issued – backlash at lockdown rules

And with just one in five passengers being checked, an MP has said the revelation proves the measure was “unenforceable and ill-judged”. All air and port passengers arriving in the UK must self-isolate for 14 days and those flouting the rules could be hit with £1,000 fines. But the Daily Express has learned that, as of June 22, no fines have been issued by police or border officials.

Ministers have insisted it is essential to prevent a second wave of cases from abroad.

But the figure heaps more pressure on ministers who faced repeated warnings that quarantine would devastate the travel industry.

According to Public Health England, arrivals have severely restricted levels of movement – meaning they are only able to go out to collect food or medicine.

But the Daily Express understands, that if a PHE official phones while they are out, they will try again several times before alerting authorities.

Sources say this is to determine whether they have a legitimate excuse not to be at home.

Only if there are repeated attempts to avoid PHE will the police be informed about a potential breach of the quarantine rules.

Public Health England has started follow-up checks, officials say, and “early indications are there is a high level of compliance”.

Henry Smith MP, chair of the Future of Aviation Group and Conservative MP for Crawley, said: “These revelations show that the 14-day quarantine policy is as unenforceable as it is ill-judged and mistimed.

“Many from across all sides of the political divide, business and industry have raised significant and serious concerns about the quarantine and this reinforces that the Government must introduce air bridges at the earliest possible opportunity. We cannot have a full economic recovery without a thriving aviation sector.”

Paul Charles of the Quash Quarantine campaign group said: “This policy is like a stand-up comic routine. It is just staggering.

“These figures, or the lack of them, prove it is unenforceable and no one in authority is bothering to check up on anyone coming into the country.

“I don’t believe the one in five figure. People are filling in forms with location details but those forms are not being checked.

“I hope the resources are going into test and trace and not into checking the 14-day quarantine.

“It is very encouraging the government will announce air bridges on Monday.

“But I would rather there is a pan-European travel corridor. You can’t stop someone flying to Madrid and driving to Portugal.”

Most of Western Europe is due to be on an initial list of countries whose residents will be exempt from quarantine when ministers announce the introduction of air bridges – also known as travel corridors – next week.

Those likely to be on the list include France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Turkey and Finland, but not Portugal.

Restrictions are likely to be lifted early next month.

Portugal will probably not be included owing to a rise in the number of new cases in and around the capital, Lisbon.

Sweden is also unlikely to be on the list because the infection rate there is higher than in the UK.

Discussions are continuing to see if a bridge withAustralia is possible.

Yesterday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said introducing air bridges is a “massive priority”.

He added: “I understand entirely the pain that aviation is going through. I know both for airports, for airlines and actually for ground handlers as well, this coronavirus has been a complete disaster.”

A Public Health England spokesperson said: “The Isolation Assurance Service, which was set up by PHE, will contact around 20 percent of non-exempted arrivals.

“The Home Office is considering what data will be provided in relation to the border measures.

“It will set out further detail in due course.”