Alok Sharma admits ‘inadvertent mistake’ over coronavirus testing figures
PUBLISHED: 10:59 01 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:47 01 July 2020
Business secretary Alok Sharma has admitted he got coronavirus testing figures wrong in a live interview with the BBC.
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Sharma appeared on BBC Breakfast last week saying that 240,000 people had been tested for Covid-19 in a single day when in fact that figure related to the number of tests available, not taken.
Rival breakfast show presenter Piers Morgan picked up on the statement, accusing the cabinet minister of telling a “bare-faced” lie.
“Alok Sharma has literally just gone on the BBC and, unchallenged, has just claimed that 240,000 people got tested on Monday,” Morgan told viewers last Wednesday,” he said live on-air.
“That is a bare-faced lie.”
The minister has reappeared on the BBC to admit the mistake after further questioning.
Asked by presenter Louise Minchin whether the 240,000 number was incorrect, Sharma replied: “Yes, I was wrong and I apologise for that.
“It was an inadvertent mistake, if I can put it like that.”
He then defended the lack of publicly available data on testing saying the government had to double-check statistics before publishing them because some cases had been counted twice.
Unhappy with the response, Minchin pushed the minister to explain when the public could expect definitive data on the number of people being tested daily.
“I’ve been speaking to a professor of infectious diseases here and he says data is knowledge so when again will the government release the data about the actual number of people... being tested?” she put to the secretary of state.
“That is something we’re working on with the UK Statistics Authority. I can’t give you information now, that is work that is ongoing,” Sharma replied.
He urged people who think they have the virus to get swabbed because “capacity has been ramped up.”
He added: “Our rate of testing is in fact one of the highest in the world and we have [a capacity of] 280,000 tests a day”.
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