Boris Johnson’s appearance in front of a liaison committee yesterday was perhaps not the walk in the park he was hoping for.

Senior MPs grilled the prime minister on everything from Dominic Cummings driving to Barnard Castle to “test his eyesight” to the new track and trace programme being rolled out this week.

On the latter subject, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt had some questions for his party leader.

The track and trace system is designed to map the interactions of anyone who’s tested positive for coronavirus.

People with positive results will be contacted and asked for details of those they’ve been in close contact with i.e. tracing.

All parties will then be asked to self-isolate for 14 days to stop the spread of the disease (cough, Cummings, cough).

An app is supposed to accompany the initiative and was announced for a mid-May launch but it is not ready.

The effectiveness of the track and trace system will also depend on how quickly test results can be turned around.

Which is why Jeremy Hunt asked Boris why he didn’t introduce a 24-hour deadline on coronavirus test results.

Citing three care homes in his constituency that have had wait times of more than week for test results, Hunt quizzed the prime minister on why he didn’t use his authority as leader of the country to ensure the results came in quicker.

Speaking via video link, Hunt said:

Isn’t the truth that turnaround time is just as important as the volume of tests? So why don’t you, as prime minister, just say ‘This is a public health emergency, I want all test results back within 24 hours. 

That would galvanise the system and make the test and trace system work much more effectively. 

Johnson, however, had a peculiar answer.

At first he claimed he had introduced a 24-hour target – but then immediately contradicted himself as Hunt asked what deadline he’d given to Dido Harding, head of the track and trace programme, to meet the 24-hour target by.

“I’m not going to give you a deadline right now Jeremy,” Johnson said. “I’ve been forbidden from announcing any more targets or deadlines. It’s going to be as soon as possible”.

His response immediately begs the question: forbidden by who?

Given Boris is the prime minister… who has more power?

Some social media users had their own guesses.

Others asked why on earth Johnson would freely admit that to the public.

It’s all very mysterious.

The government machine grinds on.

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