Over the course of the coronavirus crisis, there’s been a lot of discussion over the rights and wrongs of some people being tested ahead of others.
Celebrities have been criticised for receiving tests for Covid-19 when most people in America and the UK weren’t being tested, even if they had symptoms.
But now more British politicians are receiving tests after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock tested positive for the virus.
After it was announced that Michael Gove was self-isolating, it emerged that his daughter had been tested for the virus. Thankfully she tested negative.
But the fact that Gove’s daughter received a test before many frontline health staff hasn’t gone down well with everyone…
Obviously all of us can understand the desire of any parent make sure their children are correctly treated and diagnosed for an illness, but at a time when so few people are being tested Gove was accused of “skipping the queue” to get a test for a family member.
This prompted Downing Street to push back on the backlash against the minister, saying that Gove’s daughter was tested because of his critical role in the government’s response to the outbreak.
There’s also been confusion over how and why this happened.
Gove was forced into 14-day self-isolation last week after his child developed symptoms of Covid-19. The rest of his family also went into quarantine. But after he was photographed running near his home, people wondered why he appeared to be outside after saying he was isolating. After saying he thought running was allowed when isolating with symptoms (it isn’t) he then revealed that he was no longer in self-isolation because his daughter had thankfully tested negative.
People have questioned whether it’s appropriate for a minister’s family member to receive a test ahead of NHS workers, care home staff and police officers (and their families).
Downing Street has insisted Gove had played a “central role” in the response to the Covid-19 crisis and therefore he and his family members should be tested. And a protocol drawn up by the UK’s four chief medical officers in March does allow priority testing for government members and their families
The prime minister’s spokesman said:
The test was carried out on the advice of the CMO [chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty] and in line with medical guidance.
The minister in charge of the Cabinet Office is a central role in the coronavirus response. Testing a member of the household ensures that Michael Gove could get back to work to drive forward the Government’s response at a critical time.
If by testing a member of his family allowed him to return to working in Whitehall that is obviously considered beneficial.
When pressed on whether a government minister’s daughter receiving a test before key workers amounted to a “double standard”, a Downing Street spokesman told the i Paper:
No. And as I say that was done on the advice of the chief medical officer.
The Prime Minister received a test when he was suffering from symptoms as did the health secretary. Clearly, the three ministers which we’re talking about all perform critical roles.
In any case, one thing we can all agree on is that it's a relief Gove's daughter tested negative and will hopefully be on the mend soon.