Jacob Rees-Mogg has described the concerns of those who are struggling to get tested for coronavirus amid a nationwide shortage as “endless carping”.
Instead, the Tory MP told the Commons on Thursday, people should be celebrating that “our administration” has been able to establish a testing system at all given “we have gone from a disease that nobody knew about a few months ago”.
At around the same time as Rees-Mogg speaking, the latest figures from his administration showed the number of tests completed in 24 hours had plummeted in just a week.
This comes just a day after health secretary Matt Hancock announced tests would have to be rationed as there aren’t enough to go round despite a huge surge in cases across the country.
Even emergency workers are being turned away from testing sites and NHS staff are being forced to take time off work while they wait for tests.
Rees-Mogg said: “The issue of testing is one where we have gone from a disease that nobody knew about a few months ago to one where nearly a quarter of a million people a day can be tested and the prime minister is expecting that to half a million people a day by the end of October.
“Instead of this endless carping saying it’s difficult to get them, we should actually be celebrating this phenomenal success of the British nation in getting up to a quarter of a million tests of a disease that nobody knew about until earlier in the year.
“That is a success of our scientists, our health experts and of our administration.
“And yes there’s demand for more and yes demand exceeds supply, but supply is increasing and what is being done is really rather remarkable and something we should be proud of.”
Responding to the comments, Labour’s shadow minister for public health, Alex Norris, said the government had “resorted to a blizzard of blame shifting and excuses”.
He added: “Now, out-of-touch ministers have got a new message to those who can’t get tests: ‘stop complaining and praise us’.
“Jacob Rees-Mogg should immediately apologise. Whining about the public not being grateful enough won’t sort anything – only his government can fix the testing shambles they are presiding over.”
It is almost four months since Boris Johnson told MPs the Government’s test, track and trace operation would be “world-beating”. But facing the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday, the PM was forced to acknowledge the situation was not “ideal” as demand was vastly outstripping capacity.
He was left with little choice. Across the country, people have described being told to travel hundreds of miles to get their children tested.