Johnson defends his response to coronavirus crisis as death toll passes 50,000

Boris Johnson defends position on Coronavirus lockdown easing

The UK’s coronavirus death toll passed 50,000 as Boris Johnson was accused of presiding over a government that lacked the “trust and confidence” of the British people.

At a fractious Prime Minister’s Questions Mr Johnson clashed with Labour leader Keir Starmer about his approach to easing the lockdown and reopening England’s schools.

The British Prime Minister defended NHS England’s test and trace system – one of the key measures introduced to help the return to something approaching normality – but promised to increase the speed with which concerned people get the results of coronavirus tests.

The Commons clashes came as the grim milestone of 50,000 deaths linked to Covid-19 was passed, according to analysis of official figures by the PA news agency.

Mr Johnson defended his handling of the crisis, telling MPs: “I take full responsibility for everything this government has been doing in tackling coronavirus and I’m very proud of our record.”

Mr Starmer said there had been a “loss of trust” in Mr Johnson’s administration and claimed the Prime Minister had refused an offer to work together on building a consensus on the reopening of England’s schools.

Mr Johnson said Mr Starmer had not offered “any dissent” during a private phone call about the government’s approach and questioned the purpose of his “endless attacks” on the official response to the crisis.

In response to claims that the test and trace system was weeks away from being fully operational, Mr Johnson said it was working – but stopped short of giving figures to back up his claim.

He said “thousands” of contacts of people who had tested positive for coronavirus had been traced.

In response to pressure from former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Mr Johnson set a target of test results being turned around in 24 hours by the end of the month.

Some 90% of tests are returned within 48 hours and Mr Johnson said that he would get “all tests turned around in 24 hours by the end of June” apart from instances where there were postal or other problems.

The speed of getting results is critical to the operation of the test and trace system, which relies on identifying people who have been in contact with a positive case and getting them to self-isolate.

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