Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been criticised after he told a Labour MP to watch her “tone” when she questioned the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who is also a serving A&E doctor, said the government’s coronavirus testing strategy had “cost lives” and called on the health secretary to commit to a “minimum of 100,000 tests each day going forward”.
During health questions in the Commons, Mr Hancock dismissed her allegations and said she “might do well to take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state’s book in terms of tone”.
Dr Allin-Khan later tweeted she would “not watch my tone when dozens of NHS and care staff are dying unnecessarily”.
She had told MPs: “Frontline workers like me have had to watch families break into pieces as we deliver the very worst of news to them, that the ones they love most in this world have died.
“The testing strategy has been non-existent. Community testing was scrapped, mass testing was slow to roll out, and testing figures are now being manipulated.”
She continued: “And does the secretary of state acknowledge that many frontline workers feel that the government’s lack of testing has cost lives and is responsible for many families being unnecessarily torn apart in grief?”
Mr Hancock said Dr Allin-Khan’s accusations were “not true” and that there had been a “rapid acceleration is testing… including getting to 100,000 tests a day”.
A number of high profile figures have defended Dr Allin-Khan on Twitter following the exchange, including Nigella Lawson, Piers Morgan and Diane Abbott.
Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden wrote: “Good Lord. You delivered that eloquently, clearly, succinctly and professionally.
“You asked the right question in the right way. Matt Hancock on the other hand…Good Grief!!! Talk about off tone!!”
The health secretary previously said the UK had managed to surpass its target of daily 100,000 tests by the end of April, hitting 122,347 tests.
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But Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, later confirmed tests that are sent out to people at home or to satellite centres are counted when they are sent out, not when they are completed.
There are also concerns some tests may have come back void or unsatisfactory.
On 3 May, 85,186 tests were carried out, according to Department of Health Figures – much lower than the 100,000 daily target.
Earlier, Mr Hancock said testing of asymptomatic NHS staff will be rolled out further across the country.
Mr Hancock responded: “Yes, [Mr Ashworth] has asked questions in a responsible and reasonable way and I welcome his support for the test, track and trace pilot in the Isle of Wight that we announced yesterday.
“We have piloted the testing of asymptomatic NHS staff now in 16 trusts across the country and those pilots have been successful, and we’ll be rolling it out further.”