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A leaked report suggests the UK’s true testing capacity is currently far lower than the official figure (PA)

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A leaked report claiming there is a backlog of 185,000 Covid-19 tests shows “a new level of ministerial incompetence” just as infection rates rise, according to a senior MP.

According to The Sunday Times the government’s supposedly “world-beating” programme is so overstretched samples are being sent to laboratories in Italy and Germany for processing.

Citing a Department of Health and Social Care report marked “Official: sensitive”, it is alleged the much-vaunted capacity to do 375,000 tests a day is far higher than the number which can actually take place.

Due to “chaos” in supply chains at the start of the month just 437,000 people a week were being tested, equivalent to just 62,000 a day.

It comes after widespread reports this week that people seeking a test were either told a home kit was not available, or were urged to travel hundreds of miles to a drive-in centre.

Meanwhile there have been almost 20,000 new coronavirus infections in the past week, including 3,497 reported yesterday.

In response to criticism this week Boris Johnson said he has commissioned Operation Moonshot, which aims to make 10 million tests available every day, at a potential cost of £100billion.

But Labour’s Barbara Keeley, who sits on the health select committee, said: “Instead of making ludicrous claims about mass testing and ‘Operation Moonshot’, the government should get a grip of this current testing fiasco, deal with the lack of laboratory capacity and sort out the system to get results back to people tested within 24 hours.”

The former shadow health minister told PoliticsHome: “Other countries have managed to establish effective testing and contact tracing systems and it shows a new level of ministerial incompetence that our system has lapsed into such chaos at a time when infection rates are rising. 

“It’s time the government handed the leadership of testing and tracing over to our local Directors of Public Health, who are doing a good job but with very limited resources.”

The Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Munira Wilson said it was a “sobering” story, adding: “While the health secretary Matt Hancock is busy blaming the public for taking tests when they shouldn’t, reality is his so-called ‘world beating’ testing system is on its knees. 

“Backlog numbers and turnaround times are shocking.”

The Sunday Times also reveals leaked figures confirm reports that targets for testing times are also being misses, with three-quarters taking longer than 24 hours from booking to result. 

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth told the newspaper: “People ill or with a sick child desperate for a test will be astonished that tests are piling up, left unprocessed, or even thrown away, because of errors in transportation and swabbing, while at the same time we are testing less than capacity. 

“This really is ministerial incompetence at a whole new level.”

In response the Department of Health said: “Test and trace is working and our capacity is the highest it has ever been, but we are seeing a significant demand, including from people who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible.”

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McDonald’s new pastries are here. Here’s how to get them for free

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The expansion of the company’s McCafé lineup adds three new sweets — an apple fritter, a blueberry muffin and a cinnamon roll — to menus as it finds itself in a competitive battle with rivals over the first meal of the day.

McDonald’s is giving away one of the new items free with a purchase of a hot or iced coffee on orders placed through its app. The promotion runs from November 3 through November 9 and is valid once per day at any time.

McDonald’s (MCD) regularly tries to entice customers to use its app with a variety of promotions and coupons, as well as a limited rewards program aimed at boosting coffee sales. Increasing the app’s user base is “key,” according to Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy, because the promotion could build customer loyalty: Customers might be coaxed to come back because of future offers.
The chain could use the boost, as it faces more competition at breakfast. Its most notable rival is Wendy’s (WEN), which launched its own breakfast menu nationwide for the first the time earlier this year. It features a mix of salty and sweet items such as the Breakfast Baconator and Frosty-ccino.
Breakfast now accounts for 8% of Wendy’s total sales, and the company also launched a robust rewards program on its app this summer.

Meanwhile, the future of McDonald’s own All Day Breakfast remains hazy. The chain has not announced when or even if it will bring that menu back after cutting it in March because of the pandemic. The new sweets launching Wednesday might partially fill the void.

In the US, McDonald’s sales have finally turned a corner following a bleak spring. Sales at US stores open at least a year jumped 4.6% in the third quarter compared to the same period last year, the company said in a regulatory filing earlier this month. The company said it grew sales during “all dayparts,” an encouraging sign that it finally stemmed its declines during breakfast hours.
Sales improvements in the US were driven in part by “strong performance” at dinner and new items and stunts, including the Travis Scott Meal and spicy nuggets. This month, it hopes to replicate the success with a new J. Balvin meal — and now, new baked goods.

McDonald’s will release full third-quarter results on November 9.

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Tony Chung: Hong Kong activist detained near US embassy charged

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Hong Kong teen activist Tony Chung has been charged under a new national security law, just days after he was detained outside the US consulate.

Mr Chung, 19, had reportedly planned to enter the consulate and claim asylum.

The activist faces the possibility of life in prison if found guilty of secession, conspiracy to publish seditious content and money laundering.

Mr Chung, the second person to be charged under the law, was denied bail by the court.

The controversial law was imposed by China on Hong Kong in June, making it easier to punish protesters and reducing the city’s autonomy.

What do we know about his detention?

According to the South China Morning Post, Mr Chung was detained on Tuesday morning at a coffee shop opposite the US consulate.

UK-based activist group Friends of Hong Kong said he had planned to enter and claim asylum. Instead, footage taken from near the consulate showed him being carried away by plain-clothes police.

Mr Chung, who was a former member of pro-independence group Studentlocalism, said activists had not given up fighting.

“At the right moment, we will come out to protest again,” he told BBC Chinese in a recent interview.

“Yes we lose at this moment. But the road to democracy is always long.”

He will remain in custody until his next court appearance on 7 January next year.

What is Hong Kong’s new security law?

Hong Kong’s national security law was imposed by Beijing in June after months of huge pro-democracy protests last year against an extradition bill.

The new law makes secession, subversion of the central government, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.

In July, several were arrested under the new powers, including a man carrying a “Hong Kong Independence” flag.

  • China’s new law: Why is Hong Kong worried?

  • UK makes citizenship offer to Hong Kong residents

The law gives Beijing extensive powers it has never had before to shape life in the territory.

Critics say it effectively puts an end to the freedoms guaranteed by Beijing for 50 years after British rule ended in Hong Kong in 1997, but China says it will return stability to the city.

After the passing of the security law, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would offer up to three million Hong Kong residents a chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.

China has condemned this, saying it would take countermeasures against the UK should it grant residency to Hong Kong residents.

Related Topics

  • Hong Kong national security law

  • China
  • Hong Kong

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AOC: ‘I don’t know if I’m really going to be staying in the House forever’

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President Donald Trump has taken particular pleasure in warning that Ocasio-Cortez poses a threat to Schumer, while describing prominent Democratic leaders including presidential nominee Joe Biden as beholden to her more liberal agenda.

Ocasio-Cortez is also viewed as one of the likeliest inheritors of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ progressive coalition if she were to run for president. The congresswoman, who endorsed Sanders in the 2020 White House race, turned 31 earlier this month and would meet the constitutional presidential age requirement of 35 by November 2024.

Another possibility is Ocasio-Cortez joining a potential Biden administration in some capacity. She was tapped in May to serve as a co-chair of the Biden-Sanders joint task force on climate change — one of six working groups meant to advise the Biden campaign on policy.

But Ocasio-Cortez told Vanity Fair she did not “want to aspire to a quote-unquote higher position just for the sake of that title or just for the sake of having a different or higher position.”

“I truly make an assessment to see if I can be more effective,” she said. “And so, you know, I don’t know if I could necessarily be more effective in an administration, but, for me that’s always what the question comes down to.”

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