Missed targets, blunders and U-turns mark Government’s response to pandemic

BRITAIN-HEALTH-VIRUS-POLITICS

This week saw the Government perform the latest U-turns on free school meals and plans for its own contact tracing app.

Here, the PA news agency looks at where the Government has missed targets and backtracked.

– Coronavirus testing target

On April 2, Health Secretary Matt Hancock set a goal of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month.

At the Government's daily briefing on May 1, Mr Hancock said testing figures had hit 122,347 on April 30.

However, the figures included the number of home tests (27,497) that had been sent out as well as the number of tests sent out to satellite sites (12,872).

It suggested that the number of tests actually processed was closer to around 81,978 – short of the Government's target.

Coronavirus - Mon May 18, 2020
Many schools expressed concerns about being able to implement social distancing (Jacob King/PA)

– Primary school children to return

In early May, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson set out the Government's ambition that all primary-age children in England would have at least four weeks in school before the summer.

But on June 9, he said there was "no choice" but to scrap those plans amid concerns that the two-metre social distancing rule would make a full return impossible.

On June 19, a £1 billion plan was outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to help pupils catch up with the education they have missed while not at school.

We are extending the bereavement scheme to NHS support staff & social care workers – effective immediately and retrospectively.

This is a very complex issue we have been working through at pace.

Rest assured, all families will have the support they need during this tragic time.

— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) May 20, 2020

– Bereavement scheme to NHS support staff extended

After criticism that care workers, cleaners and porters were being excluded from a Home Office scheme granting families of health workers indefinite leave to remain in the UK if they die of Covid-19, the Government announced an extension of the scheme on May 20.

The scheme had been introduced in April to help support families affected by the pandemic.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the extension would be "effective immediately and retrospectively."

– NHS surcharge for overseas health and care staff

A day later, on May 21, the Prime Minister stood by the fee that overseas health workers were being charged to use the NHS.

However, just hours later, following mounting pressure from senior Tories, it was announced that foreign health and care workers would be exempted from the scheme.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the U-turn a "victory for common decency".

Marcus Rashford
Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford played a prominent role in pushing the Government to extend the free school meal scheme (Mike Egerton/PA)

School meals voucher scheme

England striker Marcus Rashford was credited as playing a key part in forcing the Government to U-turn on its decision not to extend the children's food voucher scheme into the summer holidays.

On June 16, Cabinet minister Grant Shapps said that free school meals are not normally extended to cover the summer period.

Yet a few hours later, No 10 backtracked on its stance, confirming that it would in fact extend the programme.

Speaking on Sky News the next day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock mistakenly praised "Daniel Rashford" for his campaigning efforts.

Coronavirus - Thu May 7, 2020
The contact tracing app was launched in the Isle of Wight (Steve Parsons/PA)

– Government's coronavirus contact-tracing app plans ditched

A new NHSX app for contact tracing was announced by Mr Hancock on April 12, pledging that it would be "crucial" for preventing the transmission of coronavirus.

The app was trialled on the Isle of Wight with a view to it being rolled out more widely across the country in May.

However, on June 18, the Government abandoned plans for its own app, instead allowing Apple and Google to take over the project.

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