Missed targets, blunders and U-turns mark the Tory government’s response to pandemic

The Canary

This week saw the government perform 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 during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Coronavirus testing target

On 2 April, 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 1 May, Hancock said testing figures had hit 122,347 on 30 April.

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 9 June, 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 19 June, a £1bn plan was outlined by prime minister Boris Johnson to help pupils catch up with the education they have missed while not at school.

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 20 May.

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 21 May, 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 Conservatives, it was announced that foreign health and care workers would be exempted from the scheme.

Labour leader Keir Starmer called the U-turn a “victory for common decency”.

School meals voucher scheme

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)

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 16 June, 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 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 Hancock on 12 April, 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 18 June, the government abandoned plans for its own app, instead allowing Apple and Google to take over the project.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Yes, and look at the stock market. Booming. We are being told the economic cost will be devastating. It will for us but not for the corporates. They are making money hand over fist. As ever, the world economy is organised in the interests of the billionaires or at least the one billion people worldwide who own more than 80% of the world’s wealth. The people are going to be bamboozled again, as in 2008. They are going to made to suffer while the rich stuff their wallets. Can this be stopped? Of course, but it requires direct action. We can’t wait for another general election. People are on the streets over BLM. They should be there too over people before profit. Otherwise, we will be shafted.

    2. Credit where credit is due. Let’s remember that the NHSX Test and trace service was a Matt Hancock special, with a contract awarded to SERCO without any scrutiny or competitive tendering. The only reason it was called NHSX Contact tracing was so that the NHS could be blamed when it failed!! Please Credit the Real Company responsible fornthe failure, SERCO, and the person who awarded them the contract! It wasn’t anything to do with the NHS!!

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