“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.”
That was Boris Johnson’s claim yesterday in the Commons.
But what the Prime Minister didn’t mention was that it was ten days after 8 June 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.
This week, Leicester became the first city in the UK to return to lockdown after local infections surged.
The Labour leader Keir Starmer challenged the Prime Minister yesterday on the government’s handling of 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?”
Mr Johnson replied: “Well, actually, 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.”
“We engaged actively with the authorities in Leicester, with public health in Leicester and with everybody responsible in Leicester in the way that we have done with other areas that have had similar issues,” Mr Johnson added.
When were the additional testing units opened?
There were coronavirus testing units in Leicester before this recent outbreak began. But Mr Johnson was talking about new units set up “shortly” after 8 June in response to the flare-up.
FactCheck spoke to Leicester City Council about exactly when the additional centres were established.
A spokesperson confirmed that it wasn’t until 18 June that a new testing site was set up (in the Evington area of the city). 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.
That means it was 21 days after 8 June 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.
The Council confirmed that two more are expected to open tomorrow (Friday 3 July).
The Department of Health were contacted for comment.
Boris Johnson said yesterday that the government opened four new mobile testing sites in Leicester “shortly” after 8 June.
Leicester City Council have confirmed to FactCheck that it was ten days after that date before the first new site was established, and 21 days before four additional units were opened.
By the time the fourth was set up (this week), the city had gone into lockdown.