Published On: Mon, Apr 6th, 2020

Tony Blair calls for special unit to deal solely with coronavirus tests – ‘I’m terrified’ | UK | News

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, the former Labour Prime Minister claimed he would “put a senior minister in charge of testing and nothing else” in the fight against .  said Boris Johnson’s hospital situation is “hellish” and admitted he is “terrified” of the economic consequences of COVID-19. 

He said: “On testing unless you’re able to get mass testing, so at scale with speed, I don’t see how you get away out of this lockdown.

“And I am terrified by the economic damage that we are doing with every week this lockdown continues.”

The former Prime Minister said he did not want to criticise the Government but to offer critical advice. 

He added: “If I was handling the situation now, I would put a senior minister in charge of testing and nothing else with people who have industrial experience, business experience of how you ramp up industrial scale production.

“Plus people on the technology side and obviously on the scientific advice side.

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“The PCR test which is to decide whether you have the disease, and what will increasingly be important to try to ease the lockdown, the anti-body test that will decide whether you had the disease and therefore can go back to work.”

On Boris Johnson’s health condition, he said: “I have every sympathy and solidarity with him. I know it must be a hellish situation to be in.”

Asked whether the Prime Minister should hand over control while ill, Mr Blair said: “I’m not going to second guess them on that.

“He knows the state of his own condition and he will be judging it carefully himself, I’m sure.”

“And I would have that unit reporting directly to the Prime Minister and doing literally nothing else than ensuring that we get the two types of tests that matter.”

The Prime Minister was in hospital in London for tests on Monday suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus, but Downing Street said he remained in charge of the Government.

Mr Johnson, who had been isolating in Downing Street after testing positive for the virus last month, was taken to hospital on Sunday night because he still had a high temperature and his doctors felt he needed additional tests.

The Prime Minister is doing well and will undergo routine tests on Monday but will continue to lead the Government, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said.

“He’ll stay in hospital as long as he needs to do that, but I’ve heard that he’s doing well and I very much look forward to him being back in Number 10 as soon as possible,” Mr Jenrick said.

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“This isn’t an emergency admission and so I certainly expect that he’ll be back at Number 10 shortly,” said, though he gave no time frame.

On March 27, Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major power to announce that he had tested positive. The 55-year-old went into isolation at an apartment in Downing Street and said on Friday he was staying there as he still had a high temperature.

Downing Street stressed it was not an emergency admission.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will chair the government’s emergency COVID-19 meeting on Monday.

With only an unwieldy collection of sometimes ancient and contradictory precedents to go by, there is no formal succession plan should the prime minister become incapacitated.

Queen Elizabeth, who delivered a rallying call on Sunday to the British people just as Johnson was admitted, has been informed of his admission to hospital, Buckingham Palace said.

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