UK coronavirus live: PM admits there is not enough testing capacity but warns second lockdown would be ‘disastrous’ | Politics







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Johnson admits UK does not have enough testing capacity







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Boris Johnson’s evidence to Commons liaison committee







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Manchester to launch its own contact-tracing unit to supplement national version

Greater Manchester will start using hundreds of police community support officers and fire safety staff to plug the holes of the struggling NHS Test and Trace system.

Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, said the new locally-run contact-tracing unit would aim to quickly reach the 3,600 people falling through the gaps of the national system each week.

The new unit will be staffed by more than 100 police and community support officers and 100 fire safety officers and aim to be established “in days rather than weeks”, Burnham said.

Figures released by Burnham’s office today showed the government’s flagship NHS Test and Trace programme was still failing to reach 46% of the close contacts of people who had tested positive for coronavirus in Greater Manchester, equating to 519 people a day and 3,633 people a week.

Burnham said instead of waiting for improvements to the privatised arm of Test and Trace, which is run by Serco and Sitel and is where most of the contacts are missed, Greater Manchester was taking matters into its own hands.

“We are absolutely working flat-out to get this up and running as quickly as possible,” he said.

The new command unit will mean staff are taken away from the already stretched Greater Manchester police and the region’s fire and rescue service. Burnham said the move “isn’t necessarily sustainable over the long term” but that it was being done in collaboration with the emergency services.

The contact-tracing unit will also link into a new support service being launched to help people in Greater Manchester who will struggle to self-isolate for financial reasons.

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A new UK body to advocate for freedom of religion and belief has been launched with the backing of more than 50 organisations.

The first action of the UK Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum was to urge the prime minister to act swiftly in appointing a new special envoy on religious freedom following the resignation on Monday of Rehman Chishti in protest at the government’s moves towards breaking international law through the internal market bill.

The forum is chaired by Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro, who last year led an independent review commissioned by the Foreign Office on how the government should respond to Christian persecution around the world.

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