Boris Johnson denies ‘intercepting’ Covid tests for England
Boris Johnson has denied that UK Government “intercepted” Covid-19 tests that were meant for Wales.
The UK Prime Minister was responding to a question by Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams, who asked the UK Prime Minister “why Welsh lives meant so little to him” in the House of Commons.
This follows the emergence of emails from a health boss in which she claimed that Covid-19 tests meant for Wales were “intercepted”, and sent to England instead.
Tracey Cooper, CEO of Public Health Wales, (PHW), said there was a deal in place with Swiss firm Roche to provide 5,000 extra tests a day, but that it was scuppered because of pressure from the UK Government.
After she found out the tests were being sent to Public Health England, Cooper told colleagues that the “political context in England” is dictating events and describes a “rather chaotic situation” where agreements made are “not being honoured”.
She points the finger of blame directly at the UK Government, claiming it “clearly prioritised the use of a company’s testing for the purposes of England’s allocation”.
Hywel Williams said: “In March last year this United Kingdom Conservative government intercepted a deal between Wales and the Roche pharmaceutical company for 5,000 daily Covid tests instructing the company to “reserve all additional Covid tests” to England.
“Those tests would have been crucial to saving thousands of lives in Wales. So as we go to the polls next week, will the Prime Minister tell us why Welsh lives meant so little to him?
Boris Johnson replied: “The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong in what he says about tests.”
After the session, Hywel Williams said: “The Prime Minister can’t deny what has been confirmed in black and white: Westminster deliberately undermined Wales’s efforts against Covid during those crucial few weeks.”
“In next week’s Senedd election, the people of Wales have a choice. Vote for a Westminster system that doesn’t care about us – or vote for Wales.”
The emails by Tracey Cooper were revealed after a Freedom of Information Request by Channel 4 News journalist Andy Davies.
It has been suggested that the collapse of the deal led to Wales only getting around 10% of the 5000 tests it had originally been expecting.
However, Roche have denied there was ever an agreement in place.
It is understood that while no contract has been drawn up, Public Health Wales believed it had a strong verbal agreement in place with the company.
It is believed that this changed after Roche was called in to a meeting with the UK Government.
The original FOI request made last year was denied by the Welsh Government because it “would, or would be likely to prejudice relations between two or more United Kingdom administrations”.
In her email to colleagues about the tests Tracey Cooper, said: “We understand that Porton Down [Public Health England] intercepted the order…”
“It is clear that they [Roche] have no plan to come to Wales….and that they are being instructed by DHSC (the UK Government’s Department of Health and Social Care) and following those instructions”.