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LABOUR is demanding the Tories explain why party co-chair Ben Elliot’s firm was marketing private Covid-19 tests to its super-rich clients during a national testing shortage last year.
Quintessentially, the luxury lifestyle company owned and managed by Mr Elliot, a nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall, reportedly arranged for its customers to get access to coronavirus tests in April 2020.
Tests were in very short supply at that time, weeks after the first national lockdown began on March 23, with even care homes unable to check if their vulnerable residents or staff had the deadly disease.
The Times newspaper has published a Quintessentially email from April 21 last year that introduced clients to a private healthcare firm offering Covid-19 tests by the same labs that were carrying out NHS testing.
A total of 39,017 people died with coronavirus in care homes in England in the year from April 10 2020 to March 31 this year, the Care Quality Commission said.
But, according to care providers, the figure is likely to be higher because deaths that occurred in the weeks before the start date were not counted as Covid-related.
Eligibility for testing was extended to social care workers with symptoms on April 15, but it was not until April 28 that all care home residents and staff, including those without symptoms, could request tests.
Experts fear a lack of testing early on allowed the virus to rip through the nation’s care homes after elderly patients were discharged from hospital to make way for coronavirus sufferers.
In today’s letter to Amanda Milling, Mr Elliot’s fellow Tory Party co-chair, Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds demanded to know if any senior Tories were aware of Quintessentially’s testing arrangements.
She also asked what discussions Ms Milling held with Mr Elliot about his business interests and any potential conflicts of interest, and what action she intends to take following the allegations.
The revelations are the latest to engulf the top Tory; it was reported earlier this week that he had been offering access to senior party figures in exchange for a six-figure fee and membership of a secretive “advisory board.”
Businessman and party donor Mohamed Amersi reportedly confirmed that potential members need to “cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben” to have a chance of meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak or other senior party grandees.
Ms Dodds said the public would be appalled by the revelations, adding: “We need to know just who in the Conservative Party knew what Mr Elliot was up to and what action they are going to take.
“The daily revelations about Elliot raise serious questions about the Prime Minister’s judgement in appointing him to his post and the culture within the Conservative Party.
“There cannot be one rule for senior Conservatives and their cronies and another rule for everyone else.”
Labour’s Leeds East MP Richard Burgon told the Morning Star the reports show yet again that the Tories “put profit and privilege ahead of public health.
“Boris Johnson’s government’s handling of the pandemic has been a story of unnecessary deaths on a huge scale and cronyism and corruption writ large. The public inquiry into the handling of Covid can’t wait any longer.”
The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.
Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt
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