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Thu, 3 December 2020

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Cabinet minister Grant Shapps says it’s ‘very likely’ Government will hit 100,000-a-day coronavirus test target

Cabinet minister Grant Shapps says it’s ‘very likely’ Government will hit 100,000-a-day coronavirus test target

Figures for the deadline day for 30 April will be revealed on Friday.

3 min read

It is “very likely” that the Government will meet its target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day for coronavirus when the figures are revealed later on Friday, Grant Shapps has said.

The Transport Secretary predicted that the UK would “get very close to or meet” the goal set by his Cabinet colleague Matt Hancock in a bid to dramatically increase the UK’s ability to spot the spread of the virus.

Mr Hancock, the Health Secretary, set an April 30 deadline for the figure at the start of last month, amid mounting pressure on the Government over low testing levels and calls from the World Health Organisation for countries to focus on tracking Covid-19.

At that point, England had capacity for 12,799 daily checks for the disease, while 10,650 had been carried out overall. 

On Thursday night, Boris Johnson said 81,611 tests had been carried out the previous day, with testing capacity at around 90,000.

Speaking on the BBC’s Question Time later in the evening, Mr Shapps said: "Right now, today, there is testing capacity of 90,000. And when we look back tomorrow on where we end on, we did over 81,500 tests yesterday.

“It’s very likely or quite possible tomorrow that we’ll see that we in fact did reach 100,000 today... It doesn’t precisely matter whether it’s 100,000 or not: the point is available tests.”

"We’re quite likely to get very close to or meet the 100,000 target" - Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

He added: “To give you an example of the speed at which this has scaled up: at the beginning of the week we only had 5,000 home tests available.

"This is now 20,000 available. And it’s the reason why we’re quite likely to get very close to or meet the 100,000 target.”

Widespread testing for Covid-19 is seen as a crucial part of easing the UK-wide lockdown, allowing those with the disease to self-isolate while officials carry out contact tracing to alert those that infected people have come into contact with.

Mr Hancock this week unveiled a massive expansion in the eligibility rules for coronavirus testing, confirming that everyone over the age of 65 and all people in their households can now ask to be checked for Covid-19, as well “all workers who would have to leave home in order to go to work”.

The availability of tests has also been widened to include everyone living or working in care homes, even if they do not have any of the disease’s symptoms.

Part of the attempt to reach the target has included increasing the dispatch of home test kits from 5,000 a day last Friday to 25,000 a day by the end of this week.

BuzzFeed news reports that Mr Hancock told staff at the Department of Health this week: "Whatever happens tomorrow, we've done what we needed to do — we've ramped up our testing capacity more than anyone believed we could, and given the UK the testing capacity it needs to beat this virus."

But there has been some criticism of the Government’s focus on the 100,000-a-day pledge.

NHS providers, which represents hospitals and health service trusts, has described the goal as a “red herring” which is distracting from the shortcomings in the overall long-term response to the outbreak.

"A vast amount still remains to be done to reach a testing regime that can be described as fit for purpose," the group said.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth meanwhile said: “We must expand testing further beyond symptomatic carriers in hospital. All health and care workers should be the priority – protecting our nation’s heroes, reducing transmission and providing key information as to who has the virus but is asymptomatic.“

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