Boris Johnson insists the Government’s failing Test and Trace system does provide “value” for money as its total budget soared to £22 billion.
The Prime Minister admitted there had been “teething problems” but defended the eye-watering cost of the centrally-run scheme which has been heavily criticised for its failings.
About four in 10 contacts of those who test positive for the virus are still not being reached, according to the latest figures.
The Prime Minister announced an extra £7 billion for Test and Trace in his winter plan on Monday in a bid to increase testing and improve contact tracing.
It takes the overall funding provided for Test and Trace this financial year to £22 billion.
Mr Johnson was asked whether the system – said to cost around a fifth of the entire annual NHS budget – provided anywhere near the benefit of the NHS, at the Downing Street press conference.
“Of course, a new operation like this is going to have teething problems and difficulties and there’s no doubt that it has,” he said.
“And of course people have been frustrated sometimes by the service they’ve got and I recognise that, of course I do.”
But the Prime Minister added: “Is it value? It’s of such importance and such value because if we don’t have it, we can’t know where the disease is prevalent in the way that we do.
“We have fantastic granular detail which enables us to have this tiering system – this regional, locally focused, tiering system that we have got.
“And it enables people who have symptoms to get a test and find out whether they have got it or not and thereby take themselves out of circulation.”
Earlier on Monday in the House of Commons, Sir Keir Starmer said a return to a three-tier lockdown system was a “risky” strategy from the government if Test and Trace is not fixed.
He said: Sir Keir Starmer added: “It’s very important that we understand that if we’re going into a tiered system, abandoning trace and isolate or not getting trace and isolate where it is, we are running a major risk.”
He added: “It’s about being grown up about risk. If we’re reintroducing a three tier system without having fixed trace and isolate, that is a major risk and we all need to acknowledge it because it begs the million dollar question which is how confident is the PM that the approach he’s proposing today will keep the R rate below one, because if it doesn’t the infections will go up, they will go back out of control and we could well be back in a national lockdown.”