A Tory MP echoed Donald Trump’s argument that an increase in Covid-19 testing might make the spread of the disease look worse than it is.
Sir Desmond Swayne, who has repeatedly complained in the Commons about the introduction of social distancing measures and the wearing of masks, raised the question with Health Secretary Matt Hancock today.
He asked: “To what extent is there the possibility that it is the exponential increase in testing itself, in identifying genuine new cases and the very significant possibility of false positives that is creating a distorted impression of the trajectory of the disease.”
The argument was similar to one made by Donald Trump, who suggested the increase in Covid-19 cases in the US was an illusion caused by testing.
In a tweet on 15 June, the US President said testing “makes us look bad”. Later at a rally in Tulsa he suggested he had told officials to “slow the testing down”.
And at a press conference in July, he claimed: “When you test, you create cases.”
Responding to Sir Desmond, Mr Hancock said: “I like my right honourable friend very much, and I wish it were true.
“The reason we have the surveillance testing done by the Office for National Statistics is to ensure that we’re constantly looking on a nationally representative sample at what the case rate is, as well as of course using the test, and as we increase the testing numbers we’ll find more of the cases that are there.”
He said the surveillance data also took account of false positives.
Sir Desmond has previously complained that it is “monstrous” to make people wear face coverings in shops.
And he has complained both about the imposition of lockdown rules on the country – which he said should have been subject to more Commons debate – and about social distancing rules being introduced in the House of Commons.