Piers Morgan and minister Helen Whately in heated on-air row over coronavirus testing 'failure'

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·2-min read
Piers Morgan and Helen Whately clashed over coronavirus testing. (ITV)
Piers Morgan and Helen Whately clashed over coronavirus testing. (ITV)

An ITV interview with a government minister descended into a fiery row this morning as Piers Morgan clashed with Helen Whately over coronavirus testing.

On the morning that Whately admitted the initial batch of COVID-19 tests for NHS staff were “inaccurate”, Morgan described the government's current level of testing as a "spectacular failure”.

His comments on Good Morning Britain came as figures showed there were 18,000 tests for coronavirus on Tuesday – down from Monday’s 19,000 figure.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this month that the government aimed to carry out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.

Care minister Whately told Morgan she would answer his questions "if you let me finish speaking" and that she was trying to "give him the context" of efforts to ramp up the number of tests.

Morgan said: “We're actually testing less people yesterday than we tested 12 days ago, which I would argue is a spectacular failure. What would you call it?”

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As Whately responded by saying the government was “working hard to ramp up the testing capacity in the country”, Morgan cut in, saying: “I don't want to hear about your ramping up. You're not ramping it up.

“I just told you, you did 18,000 tests yesterday and that is less than you did 12 days ago. So when you keep saying you're ramping things up, actually you're not – you’re going backwards.”

Whately told Morgan the government had trebled the amount of tests it could do but Morgan angrily said: “You’re not doing them.”

The government made the decision to stop “community” testing early on in the outbreak – unlike countries like Germany and South Korea, which have seen fewer cases of coronavirus than the UK.

Hospital deaths from coronavirus in the UK rose to 17,337 on Tuesday, compared with 5,086 in Germany and 238 in South Korea, from 10,694 confirmed cases.

Current figures on deaths of people in care homes could be "misleading" as they "include some who have died in hospitals, so it is an inaccurate figure”, according to Whately.

She said the way the data is being collected has been changed so that new figures could be published next week.

However, Morgan took issue with her answers regarding the number of people who have died in care homes and said those who died in hospital of the same illness are being given more respect.

She described his comment as "an incredibly unreasonable accusation”.

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