Johnson accused of ‘dodging’ pillar 2 data query at Prime Ministers Questions

Boris Johnson
The PM apologised to his parliamentary colleagues after receiving fines for 'partygate' gatherings

Bedford and Kempston MP, Mohammad Yasin today asked Boris Johnson why crucial pillar 2 test data is still missing from the government coronavirus statistics.

Testing data from the commercial sector, known as pillar 2 data, is still not being shared in the public domain.

During Prime Ministers Questions, Mr Yasin asked, “Public Health England and the Joint Biosecurity centre are undergoing a deep dive in Bedford to understand why the infection rate in my constituency is so high.

“The pillar 2, commercial mass testing cases are STILL not being included in the individual totals for England.

“How does the Prime Minister know the people of Bedford are safe to embrace his new lockdown easing measures when he doesn’t know how many people are infected with Coronavirus?”

Mr Johnson replied saying the government had a ‘pretty good estimate’ of what’s happing in the country and that the incidence of coronavirus is on the decline.

He stated that ‘cluster-busting operations’ would quickly tackle localised outbreaks and defended the reach of the NHS Test and Trace system, despite the promised app seeming a distant prospect.

“I’m frustrated that the Prime Minister didn’t seem to understand the question because his answer made no sense,” said Mohammad Yasin.

“He said incidence of coronavirus continue to decline when I’d just told him there was an investigation underway to examine why the infection rate in Bedford is going up.

“The Prime Minister dodged the vital part of my question about why the testing data from the commercial sector is not being published.

“The question left unanswered is how can we know how many people have the virus if the Government are only publishing half of the information, we need to make informed public health decisions?

“I urge the public to remain particularly vigilant – at least until the information from the deep-dive investigation gives us a better understanding of the true infection rate in Bedford.”

coronavirus testingThe Bedford Independent contacted Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) last week to ask why pillar 2 data is not readily available.

PHE responded, saying, “To ensure consistent reporting across all pillars we have paused reporting the number of people tested due to an issue with the data for pillar 2.

“There are a small percentage of cases in pillar 2 where a person has been tested more than once or tested positive for coronavirus more than once. Any incorrect figures identified will be corrected.”

We are still awaiting a response from the Department of Health and Social Care.

Without more detailed data, and as it emerged that the number of coronavirus-related deaths at Bedford Hospital reached 200, Bedford Borough Council is urging residents to continue to stay home where possible and continue to follow current – 2 metre – social distancing rules.

Read: 200 coronavirus related deaths at Bedford Hospital

Rates of infection in Bedford Borough remain higher than anywhere else in the South of England.

As referenced by Mr Yasin, the Council is working with PHE and the Joint Biosecurity Centre in an in-depth investigation of the local situation.

This will look at why rates of infection here aren’t falling as quickly as other areas, and most importantly, what can be done to bring the rate down and slow the spread of the virus.

Signs advising visitors to the town centre and the Boroughs parks will continue to advise everyone to keep 2 metres apart. While the council is reminding everyone that the best way to reduce the rate is to stay home wherever possible.

Bedford town centre
Keep your – 2 metre – distance

Dave Hodgson, Mayor of Bedford Borough, said: As we have said, we know that the rate of infections is high locally.

“While these rates remain high we’re asking everyone to continue to stay home where possible and when you go out make sure you social distance. Continue to keep 2 metres apart, wear a face covering particularly when indoors or on public transport, and regularly wash your hands with soap and water, or using a hand sanitiser when that’s not available.

“These simple measures are things we can all do that are key in helping to slow the spread.”