Matt Hancock says numbers will be ‘broadly where they are expected to be’ over testing target

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street, London. Photograph: Stefan

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street, London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Matt Hancock has claimed that the numbers are 'broadly where they are expected to be' as the government looks set to miss its 100,000-a-day testing target.

The government has come under increasing pressure in recent days to reach the target by the end of April, with just 37,024 tests carried out on Sunday.

It came after the prime minister's spokesman had earlier said it will be 'difficult to know' if the coronavirus testing target had been met.

But Hancock told the daily Downing Street press conference: 'It is important to note that we have already gone past the number of tests, per day, for instance, that they carry out in South Korea.

'We are approaching the levels that Germany undertakes.'

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Hancock added that the 100,000 daily tests promised by the government would be enough for the 'test, track and trace' plan which would be part of the next stage of the coronavirus response.

He said: 'The lower the number of new cases, the more effective a system of test, track and trace of any scale is.

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'Therefore, 100,000 tests a day is a big enough testing system to start test, track and trace, but if it is bigger then the system can work on a higher number of cases and be more effective.'

The prime minister's spokesman said it will be 'difficult' to know on Friday, adding: 'For example, home testing kits can take up to 72 hours to get the results for, and therefore show up in the numbers.'

While home testing kits quickly become unavailable every morning online, drive-through tests in England and Scotland were both still available.

Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), which is advising ministers, said the government's plans to move into tracking and tracing future coronavirus patients would be a 'real logistical challenge'.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'We will have to be able to test all those people (declaring via apps that they are displaying symptoms) and it is really a matter of scale and speed.

'One issue is how many tests we need, and if we are looking at 1,000 to 5,000 new cases per day of people with symptoms, of which maybe 5%-25% may have Covid, then you are talking about 25,000 to 100,000 tests per day.

'It is a real logistical challenge. But there is also the issue of speed as well.

'It is not much use getting the results five days later - you need it quickly so you can take the appropriate action and advise people to stay at home and also their contacts to stay at home to reduce transmission.'

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