Comment

So much for our 'world-beating' testing plan, this crisis will cost us dearly

We need to know who has this wretched disease, yet bloated health chiefs have devoted so little energy to getting the public tested properly

"Would you get on a plane?" was one of the great pub talk debates of the summer. Countless friends, family and colleagues demurred at the very thought – shrinking at the idea of falling ill abroad. Some worried about quarantine. But a surprising number fretted over  lack of access to "decent medical care" (although last time I checked Marbella hadn’t  been listed as a third world country).  

It's a joke really since falling ill in this country is clearly now a dangerous business too. Bad enough  it was reported that hospital admissions for seven major non-Covid illnesses have slumped by 173,000, and that there were 6,000 fewer admissions for heart attacks in March and April compared to 2019 and nearly 137,000 fewer cancer admissions from the start of lockdown to June. That is a devastating rap sheet.

Yet even as parts of the sclerotic health service returns to life and patients are encouraged not to delay investigating treatment, we face another danger. The Government’s s capacity for fiasco when dealing with the nation's well-being reaches unprecedented heights, as new figures reveal a shambolic testing system caving in under pressure to diagnose Covid.  

Bottle-necked laboratories are struggling to process coronavirus tests and the backlog stands at 185,000, which is an astonishing figure. In fact, leaked documents even suggest some tests have even being sent to Italy and Germany for processing.

Indeed at some points on Monday there were no walk-in, drive-through or home tests available for people across swathes of the North West. A particular sore spot since those of us who live in this part of the world are still under lockdown – unable to visit the homes of friends or family – even if they fall below the rule of six.

Meanwhile, doctors and nurses  are mothballed at home, operations and treatments cancelled because our clinicians have no way of confirming whether or not they are harbouring this insufferable virus.

The fallout is limitless.  How can we turbo-charge the economy if employees have no idea whether they can return to the workplace?

How are schools supposed to stay open if teachers – unsure whether it's the virus or a seasonal sniffle –  stay away from the classroom? Although, at least the unions can gain some told- you-so succour from that one.

So much then for the "world-beating” testing strategy, offered by a posturing Boris early in the epidemic as he riffed on his beloved Churchill.

It all seems so typically British – the kind of slapstick scenario more suited to end of pier vaudeville than a nationwide health crisis.

The science may be there, but it's paralysed by poor protocol. It makes you wonder what else has diverted our middle management  - the bloated belly of our NHS – that so little energy has been devoted to getting the public bloody well tested?

Coronavirus is a disease of social interaction. Proximity is its greatest wingman. With cases rising and medics gloomily predicting a second wave, we need to know who has this wretched disease. We don't need a defensive Matt Hancock shielding himself from criticism with autopilot reminders that the UK has the biggest testing system per head of population of all major European countries.

It's pointless when booking tests is a struggle or you're offered a spot in Cumbria when you live in Cornwall. or being sent long distances to get one. This is not just a crisis. It's a scandal. And this Government will have blood on its hands unless something is done. Stay in the UK? Going away this year never looked so good.