Number of coronavirus daily tests falls below target after claims figure had been artificially boosted

PUBLISHED: 12:08 04 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:13 04 May 2020

Health secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street, in Westminster. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

Health secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street, in Westminster. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

The number of daily tests being carried out for coronavirus in the UK has fallen to below 80,000 - well short of the 100,000 target the government set.

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Statistics published by the government on Sunday indicate that a total of 76,496 were carried out in the 24 hours up to 9am on May 3.

On Friday, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that the government’s target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April had been achieved, with more than 122,000 tests having been provided on the last day of the month.

Since then, the number has dropped by about 40,000 according to official statistics.

In the government’s daily briefing on Sunday, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said that steps taken to extend testing would help get more people back to work.


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He blamed the weekend for the much lower number of tests.

NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis added: “You will see that testing capacity has ramped up very quickly over the last week or so and we are now at a very high level of testing, over 100,000 - a little bit of a dip in the weekend, but we anticipate that that testing capacity will continue to increase.”

Hancock faced questions on Friday about how the 122,347 testing figure for the last day of April had been calculated, after the government was accused of “changing the rules”.

Guidance on the government website appears to have changed on April 28 to include wording saying home tests and satellite tests were being included.

Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of biomedical research centre the Francis Crick Institute, had previously labelled the government’s target “a PR stunt”.

Speaking on BBC Question Time the bioscientist said: “It was, as far as I’m concerned, a bit of a PR stunt which has gone a bit wrong.

“Where was the strategy under that? I haven’t seen a strategy under it. It just sounded good.”

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