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Michael Gove confirms coronavirus testing has hit 10,000 a day amid calls to get more NHS staff checked

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove

4 min read

The number of coronavirus tests being carried out in Britain every day has hit 10,000 for the first time, Michael Gove has announced.

The Cabinet Office minister confirmed the milestone as he acknowledged there was "more to do" to ensure frontline health workers treating coronavirus are checked for the disease.

It was revealed on Friday that ministers had set up a new alliance of businesses, research institutes and universities to dramatically step up testing available to NHS staff, amid criticism of the speed at which testing is being rolled out to crucial workers.

The Government has said it wants to increase the number of tests carried out by Public Health England and the NHS to 25,000 a day by mid-April, with the highest-priority cases being tested first.

Speaking to Sky News' Sophy Ridge, Mr Gove said: "We have been increasing the number of tests and I can confirm today that the number of tests being carried out has hit 10,000 now - 10,000 a day.

He added: "We want to increase that to 25,000 a day...

"We're increasing the number of people being tested all the time and, of course, it's NHS and social care frontline workers who are first in line for those new tests."

Mr Gove said the Government's "ambition" was to see a full roll-out of testing for all NHS staff - but he refused to put a timeframe on when all those on the frontline would be able to access checks.

Pressed on when tests would be made across the health and care sectors, Mr Gove said: "Well, we've increased, as I say, the number of tests to 10,000 a day. 

"We're going to move to get that up to 25,000 a day. And we're doing all that we can to increase and to accelerate that and I hope that we will be able to test as many frontline workers at the earliest possible stage."

He added: "The UK has been one of those countries which has been testing, proportionately, a larger section of its population than some other countries. But there is more to do. Much more to do."

The progress update from the Cabinet minister came as the Government faced renewed questions over the speed of the rollout.

Former prime minister Tony Blair said that while he believed ministers were "doing everything they possibly can" and "mobilising the entire resources of government" to halt the spread of the virus, the UK needed to ramp up its testing programme to cover much larger chunks of the population.

The ex-Labour leader said: "I offer this, not as a criticism, but as constructive advice: In my view it is all about getting to mass testing as fast as possible, because we have to know who has the disease and who has had the disease in order to get the lockdown eased and get people back to work and get some semblance of normality back into our daily lives."

Labour deputy leadership hopeful Rosena Allin-Khan, a former junior doctor who works occasional shifts at St George's Hospital in Tooting, said she was "really disappointed that we are not able to test all NHS and care staff at the moment".

The Tooting MP told Ridge on Sunday: "These are the people who are at the frontline. These are people who need to know whether or not they have the virus or not, so that if they feel better - if they're feeling poorly, they can return to work and keep working. 

"But also, they need to be able to keep their families safe and their communities."

She added: "I want to see mass testing rolled out as soon as possible.

"But it is absolutely urgent that NHS and care staff are tested and they have access to testing immediately."

"And I'm not sure it's entirely fair that senior politicians are having access to testing when frontline NHS staff who are going into work night shifts, day shifts, a double shift at the moment, can't get the test that they need."

Mr Allin-Khan's criticism comes after both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock were diagnosed with coronavirus, with the pair now self-isolating in line with government advice

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