England Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced new trials for an antibody treatment for Covid-19 patients.
He told MPs: “I am delighted to say that over the weekend the trial of the Oxford vaccine restarted.
“And I can tell the House that we will now be trialling a promising new antibody treatment on coronavirus patients in the UK.”
Mr Hancock told the Commons it was “inevitable that demand rises” because Covid-19 testing is free.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth asked why the Government did not foresee a rise in infections.
He added: “When schools reopen and people return to workplaces and social distancing becomes harder infections rise.
“So extra demand on the system was inevitable, so why didn’t he use the summer to significantly expand NHS lab capacity and fix contact tracing?”
Responding, Mr Hancock said: “I don’t deny that it is an enormous challenge and when you have a free service it’s inevitable that demand rises.
“The challenge is to make sure that we prioritise the tests we have as a nation to those who most need it.”
Mr Hancock told MPs that the average distance travelled to a test site is now 5.8 miles.
He told the Commons: “Everyone in this House knows that we’re doing more testing per head of population than almost any other major nation and I can update the House that we have now carried out over 20 million tests for coronavirus in this country.
“As we expand capacity further, we’re working around the clock to make sure everyone who needs a test can get a test.
“The vast majority of people who use our testing service get a test that is close to home and the average distance travelled to a test site is now just 5.8 miles, down from 6.4 miles last week.”
He added that there are “operational challenges” with testing which the Government is “working hard” to fix.
He said: “We’ve seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible.
“And throughout this pandemic we have prioritised testing according to need.”
Mr Hancock added: “I do not shirk from decisions about prioritisation. They’re not always comfortable, but they are important.
“The top priority is and always has been acute clinical care. The next priority is social care, where we’re now sending over 100,000 tests a day because we’ve all seen the risks this virus poses in care homes.
“We’ll set out in full an updated prioritisation and I do not rule out further steps to make sure our tests are used according to those priorities.”