Tony Blair: Boris Johnson is making it difficult for the country to get out of lockdown

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Former prime minister Tony Blair during a speech to mark the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Labour party, in the Great Hall at King's College, London. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Moving to mass testing is the single most important decision the government faces, says former prime minister Tony Blair. (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

Boris Johnsons’s decision to focus on targeted testing rather than mass testing is making it more difficult to get out of the coronavirus lockdown, Tony Blair has said.

The former prime minister told Radio 4’s Today programme that the government’s position on testing is the “single most important decision” around containing the coronavirus pandemic.

His comments come as a report by his think tank, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, urged the government to “shift at speed” to a mass testing regime rather than continuing with targeted and controlled testing.

“My view is that this is probably the single most important decision the government have got to take around containment at the moment and I think they’ve got to go back to their original strategy published back in April which was to have mass testing,” he told Today.

“They’ve departed from that and are now effectively only doing targeted testing and I think that this is going to make it much more difficult to get out of lockdown fast.”

He said it would be “virtually impossible” to make the track and trace system work effectively unless it was combined with mass testing.

He said mass testing was key for containing future outbreaks of COVID-19.

Government advisers have previously said lockdown shouldn’t be eased until the track and trace system is shown to be a success.

“It’s not just a question of how we ease the lockdown today,” Blair added. “My anxiety is what happens if there’s a resurgence of the disease in October/November? At that point you’ve got to have in place the ability to do mass testing, which means rapid tests combined with your lab-based tests.

“I really want to underline this. I think right now in government this is the single most important preparation they can make to give us an effective containment strategy.”

Blair said the UK’s situation was “worse than comparable countries”, saying Thursday’s number of confirmed cases was “more than France, Italy, Spain and Germany put together”.

He said: “Our death rate is still significantly above others and yet we’re easing, so we’re easing the lockdown in circumstances where we’re in a worse position than comparable countries and that’s why our position on testing has got to be a lot tougher and better than other countries.”

He said he had “complete sympathy at one level” with the government, but added it was important to “really interrogate every single decision in detail to make sure we’ve got the best containment strategy in place”.

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter

Read more about COVID-19

How to get a coronavirus test if you have symptoms
How easing of lockdown rules affects you
In pictures: How UK school classrooms could look in new normal
How public transport could look after lockdown
How our public spaces will change in the future

Help and advice

Read the full list of official FAQs here
10 tips from the NHS to help deal with anxiety
What to do if you think you have symptoms
How to get help if you've been furloughed

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting