Boris Johnson rails against ‘endless attacks’ over coronavirus response as UK death toll tops 50,000

The prime minister has accused the Labour leader of mounting “endless attacks” over the UK’s coronavirus response as the death toll topped 50,000.

Boris Johnson made the claim after Sir Keir Starmer asked during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday why the government’s test and trace scheme was not fully operational.

The PM replied: “I really do not see the purpose of his endless attacks on public trust and confidence.

“I think what the public want to hear from politicians across all parties is clear messages on how to defeat the virus.”

Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for PMQs at the House of Commons. (Getty)

Johnson added: “Test and trace is a vital tool in our armoury.

“Contrary to what he said, we actually did at the end of May get up to 100,000 tests a day and we got up to 200,000 at the beginning of this month.”

Johnson described the scheme as an astonishing achievement from ten of thousands of people working to support government and said Sir Keir should pay tribute to them.

The Labour leader hit back, saying the PM was confusing scrutiny with attacks.  

Sir Keir said he had previously openly supported the government and had taken criticism for doing so, but that the PM had been making it hard to do so over the last two weeks.

Sir Keir also raised concerns about transparency, saying the PM had previously said on lifting lockdown restrictions that “if the alert level will not allow it we will simply wait and go on until we’ve got it right”.

The Labour leader questioned why restrictions had been eased if the alert level was still at four.

Johnson said the UK had been able to ease restrictions because its five tests for doing so had been met. 

The Commons clash came as the grim milestone of 50,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 was passed, according to analysis of official figures by PA.

The PM defended his handling of the crisis, telling MPs: “I take full responsibility for everything this government has been doing in tackling coronavirus and I’m very proud of our record.”

Sir Keir said there had been a “loss of trust” in Johnson’s administration and that Johnson had refused an offer to work together on building a consensus on the reopening of England’s schools.

Johnson said Sir Keir had not offered “any dissent” during a private phone call about the government’s approach.

Read more: MPs made to form 'mile-long conga' outside Parliament to vote

The PM also dismissed complaints over MPs queuing to vote by comparing the lengthy wait to that experienced by people at supermarkets.

Sir Keir described the scenes as “shameful” and pushed the PM to instead allow remote voting to resume.

Coronavirus: what happened today