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Matt Hancock claims victory in bid to deliver 100,000-a-day coronavirus tests

Matt Hancock revealed that 122,000 tests were carried out yesterday

3 min read

Matt Hancock has claimed victory in his bid to get 100,000-a-day coronavirus tests carried out.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, the Health Secretary revealed that 122,347 tests for Covid-19 had been carried out in the 24 hours up to 9 am on May 1 - well clear of the 100,000-a-day goal he set himself at the start of April.

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

But, speaking at the Downing Street press conference after a massive expansion in eligibility for the checks in recent weeks, Mr Hancock said: “At the beginning of last month, at this podium, I set a goal: that anyone who needs a test should get a test.

“And that as a nation we should achieve 100,000 tests per day by the end of the month.

“I knew that it was an audacious goal but we needed an audacious goal because testing is so important for getting Britain back on her feet.

“I can announce that we have met our goal. The number of tests yesterday, on the last day of April, was 122,347.”

He added: “This unprecedented expansion in British testing capability is an incredible achievement but it is not my achievement. 

“It is a national achievement, achieved by a huge team of people working together. 

“And I tell you this, the testing capacity that we’ve built together will help every single person in this country.”

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.

However, the Health Secretary’s announcement came amid a row over claims his department had revised its method of counting Covid-19 tests in order to hit the goal in time for the end of April.

Health Service Journal reported that home testing kits dispatched by post had been included in the daily tally of tests, even if recipients had not yet returned their sample to a laboratory.

According to the title, the most senior official at the Department for Health and Social Care, Chris Wormald, signed off a change to the way the daily headline figure was counted, with a source telling HSJ: “We’re now counting a home test as tests which have been sent to people’s homes.”

Mr Hancock said the report’s claims were “not something I recognise”.

But the Department of Health's website confirmed that the total daily number of tests now included both those “processed through our labs” and “tests sent to individuals at home or to satellite testing locations”.

Professor John Newton, director of public health improvement at NHS England, told the daily press conference that the figures used to hit the target included 27,497 kits delivered to homes and 12,872 delivered to satellite sites.

'MOVING THE GOALPOSTS'

Labour seized on the HSJ report to accuse the Government of “moving the goalposts to hit their own arbitrary target”.

Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders said: “We want the Government’s test, isolate and trace strategy to succeed and welcomed expanding who was eligible to get a test, but counting a test put in the post is not the same as a conducted test and getting results.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey said the Government had chosen to “massage the metrics”.

“Liberal Democrats have long called for the government to be frank about what is and is not achievable, to ensure transparency and maintain public trust, but ministers continue to play fast and loose with the truth,” he argued.

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