Addressing the Commons on Tuesday, the Health Secretary said the UK has now “more than enough capacity” to test anyone in the country who presents symptoms of coronavirus. Mr Hancock announced the NHS test and trace programme is now fully operational and urged people to abide to their new duty. He said: “NHS test and trace is now operational and this means that we’ve updated our public health advice.
“Since the start of the crisis we said to people that we must wash our hands and self-isolate if you have symptoms and follow the social distancing rules.
“All of these remain incredibly important but there’s a new duty and it is a duty that we now ask and expect of people.
“If you have symptoms, that’s a fever, a new continuous cough, a change in the sense of taste or smell, if you have one of these symptoms, you must get a test.
“We have more than enough capacity to provide a test to anyone who needs one.
“And we have more than enough capacity to trace all your contacts.
“So to repeat, if you’ve got symptoms, get a test.”
The Health Secretary also spoke about work being done to understand the “unequal and disproportionate way that this disease targets people including those who are from black or minority ethnic backgrounds”.
He said: “This is very timely work. People are understandably angry about injustices and as Health Secretary I feel a deep responsibility because this pandemic has exposed huge disparities in the health of our nation.
“It is very clear that some people are significantly more vulnerable to Covid-19 and this is something I’m determined to understand in full and take action to address.”
“Today I can announce that Public Health England have completed work into disparities in the risks and outcomes of Covid-19 and we have published their findings.”
Shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that the findings outlined by Matt Hancock confirm that Covid-19 “thrives on inequalities”.
He told the Commons: “We’ve always known that there was a social gradient in health – the poorest and most deprived have inequality in access to health care and an inequality in health outcomes.
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“What (Mr Hancock) has confirmed today is that Covid thrives on inequalities. Yes indeed, black lives matter but it is surely a call to action that black, Asian and minority ethnic people are more likely to die from Covid and more likely to be admitted to intensive care from Covid.”
Mr Ashworth added that public trust had been undermined by the actions of Dominic Cummings during the coronavirus lockdown.
The shadow health secretary said: “This is a crucial week given the easing of restrictions and our constituents want reassurance and clarity, but trust has been undermined by the Dominic Cummings scandal, I’m afraid.
“Our constituents want to do the right thing for their loved ones and their neighbours.”