Government misses 100,000 daily test target for third consecutive day

5 May 2020, 19:45 | Updated: 5 May 2020, 20:41

File photo: A test sample is taken at a Covid-19 testing centre at Glasgow Airport
File photo: A test sample is taken at a Covid-19 testing centre at Glasgow Airport. Picture: PA
Ewan Somerville

By Ewan Somerville

The Government has failed to meet its 100,000 tests a day target for the third day in a row.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Friday that the benchmark, which he set in early April for the end of the month, had been achieved with 122,000 tests carried out.

But it emerged that a third of these were merely test packages delivered in the post but not yet processed by labs.

Ministers have been under fire since after daily levels fell back below 100,000, with 76,496 on Saturday, 85,186 on Sunday and 84,806 carried out on Monday.

The UK's coronavirus death toll has risen to 29,427 following a further 693 reported deaths on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, shadow health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan called on Mr Hancock to commit to a "minimum of 100,000 tests each day going forward".

The Government met its 100,000 tests a day target on April 30 but the number has fallen since
The Government met its 100,000 tests a day target on April 30 but the number has fallen since. Picture: Cabinet Office

During health questions, Mr Hancock rejected Dr Allin-Khan's assessment on testing and said she "might do well to take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state's book in terms of tone".

Dr Allin-Khan later tweeted that she would not "watch her tone" when challenging the Government.

The former Labour deputy leadership candidate, who is also an A&E doctor in her Tooting constituency, told MPs: "Frontline workers like me have had to watch families break into pieces as we deliver the very worst of news to them, that the ones they love most in this world have died.

"The testing strategy has been non-existent. Community testing was scrapped, mass testing was slow to roll out, and testing figures are now being manipulated.

"Does the Secretary of State commit to a minimum of 100,000 tests each day going forward?

"And does the Secretary of State acknowledge that many frontline workers feel that the Government's lack of testing has cost lives and is responsible for many families being unnecessarily torn apart in grief?"

Mr Hancock replied: "I welcome the honourable lady to her post as part of the shadow health team.

"I think she might do well to take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state's book in terms of tone.

"I'm afraid what she said is not true. There's been a rapid acceleration in testing over the last few months, including getting to 100,000 tests a day."

Earlier, Mr Hancock said that testing of asymptomatic NHS staff will be rolled out further across the country.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "I wonder if he's (Mr Hancock) considered the study from Imperial (College London) that suggests weekly screening of healthcare workers, testing them every week whether symptomatic or not, reduces their contribution to transmission by around 25% to 33%?

"Will he look at testing all healthcare staff, whether they've got symptoms or not?"

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Mr Hancock responded: "Yes, (Mr Ashworth) has asked questions in a responsible and reasonable way and I welcome his support for the test, track and trace pilot in the Isle of Wight that we announced yesterday.

"We have piloted the testing of asymptomatic NHS staff now in 16 trusts across the country and those pilots have been successful, and we'll be rolling it out further."

The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also told MPs it would have been “beneficial” to have ramped up Covid-19 testing earlier.

"I think it's clear you need lots of testing for this, but to echo what Jenny Harries has said, it's completely wrong to think of testing as the answer,” he said on Tuesday.

"It's just part of the system that you need to get right. The entire system needs to work properly."

Dr Jennie Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, added that “things would have been done differently” if the UK had unlimited test capacity sooner.

Ministers have insisted that the shortfall in testing is due to levels being lower at weekends.

The UK now has the highest coronavirus-related death toll of any country in Europe and is the second-worst hit in the world behind the US.

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