“The government first took notice and acted on what was going on in Leicester on 8 June, because we could see that there was an issue there. We sent mobile testing units—four more mobile testing units—shortly thereafter”

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

July 1, 2020

Facts

Earlier that week, Leicester had become the first city in the UK to undergo an isolated lockdown after a rise in local infections.

But what the Prime Minister didn’t mention was that it was ten days after June 8th 2020 before even one additional testing site was opened in Leicester. And it was 21 days before a total of four new centres had opened in the city.

The Labour leader Keir Starmer challenged the Prime Minister on the government’s response to the incident: “At the daily press conference on 18 June, the Health Secretary said, “There’s an outbreak of Covid-19 right now in parts of Leicester”, yet it was only on Monday evening this week that the Government introduced restrictions. That is a delay of 11 days, during which the virus was spreading in Leicester. Why were the Government so slow to act?”

Johnson responded by claiming the government first acted on June 8th 2020 and sent four mobile testing units “shortly thereafter”. 

Leicester City Council, when asked by Channel 4 FactCheck , confirmed that it wasn’t until 18 June that a new testing site was set up. Further sites were set up in Spinney Hill Park on 21 June, Victoria Park on 27 June, and two more mobile units opened in the week commencing 29 June. The Council confirmed that two more were expected to open on Friday 3 July.

That means it was at least 21 days after June 8th 2020 before four extra testing sites were set up in Leicester. Indeed, by the time the fourth one opened, the city had gone back into lockdown. It took a full three weeks for the four new centres referred to by Johnson to open.

Verdict

Johnson’s claims that the government began acting on 8th June 2020 and implemented changes “shortly thereafter” were misleading. His full statement remains on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.

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