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British Prime Minister Defends COVID-19 Testing

A man wearing a face mask crosses a road laid out with social distancing barriers in the City of London financial district amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, in London, Britain, Sept. 23, 2020.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended his government’s COVID-19 testing plan Wednesday as opposition members in parliament claimed the government lost control of the virus when it lost control of testing.

The exchange took place during the weekly "question time" in parliament, one day after Johnson announced new COVID-19 restrictions following a resurgence of new cases across Britain.

Opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer called out Johnson for saying test and trace had "very little or nothing" to do with the transmission of the disease after deeming it a "game changer" a few months ago.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Sept. 23, 2020.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Sept. 23, 2020.

Johnson responded that he meant the tests had little to do with the actual spread of the disease, saying, "It is an obvious fact of biology and epidemiology that alas this disease is transmitted by human contact or aerosol contact."

The prime minister went on to explain that earlier in the pandemic, the government did not have the test and trace capacity in place, which it does now. He said the National Health Service now has ability "to see in granular detail where the epidemic is breaking out, exactly which groups are being infected."

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Johnson said that is why they were able to implement the isolated, local lockdowns, such as the one imposed in northeast Britain last week.

Tuesday, Johnson announced shorter bar, pub and restaurant hours and mandatory masks for retail workers, and urged people who are capable of working from home to do so after Britain recorded 4,926 new confirmed coronavirus cases in 24 hours, the highest daily total since early May and four times the figure of a month ago.