Boris Johnson has claimed the UK will have a “world-beating” system to test, track and trace for coronavirus by June 1.
Contact tracing is a system used to slow the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus, and is already being used in Singapore and Germany.
One method involves the infected person listing all the people with whom they have had prolonged and recent contact, to be tracked down by phone or email.
Speaking at prime minister’s questions, Mr Johnson said he has “growing confidence” Westminster would be able to roll-out UK-wide contact tracing by the end of the month.
Mr Johnson made the announcement under heavy pressure from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who asked why there has been no effective tracing in place since March 12.
“That’s nearly 10 weeks in a critical period without effective tracing,” he said.
“That’s a huge hole in our defences, isn’t it, prime minister?”
In response Mr Johnson accused the Labour leader of a “sort of feigned ignorance” on the issue, saying he is “perfectly aware of the situation in the UK as regards testing and tracing in early March”.
The comments came as Mr Johnson refused to scrap a charge on overseas health workers for using the NHS, claiming the government would struggle to find alternative sources of cash.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “The home secretary and the prime minister seem hell-bent on implementing a purely ideological immigration policy with no basis in fairness or economics.
“This government has talked about giving back to our NHS and care staff, well, it’s time for the prime minister to deliver.
“People migrating to these nations and choosing to work in our NHS and our care sector must have this government’s cruel NHS surcharge removed, and removed immediately.”
Mr Johnson responded: “This is the party that is putting more into the NHS – £34 billion – the biggest investment in modern times and, believe me, we will continue with that investment.”