Government abandons release of daily coronavirus testing figures

PUBLISHED: 14:38 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:11 06 July 2020

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire).

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire).

The government will no longer release figures on the total number of people being tested for coronavirus on a daily basis.

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Instead, Downing Street will share the number of tests carried out in a single day.

The move comes after the government failed to find a way to exclude people who have been tested more than once - such as frontline medical staff and care workers - from reappearing in the tally.

Number 10 stopped sharing the figures in May after reporters began to notice a large divergence between the number of tests being carried out and the rate individuals were being swabbed, causing considerable embarrassment for the government after it announced a “world-beating” test, track and trace scheme.

On April 30, for example, 122,347 tests were undertaken while only 73,191 individuals were processed.

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Commenting on the move, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “DHSC [the Department for Health and Social Care] will no longer publish the number of people tested daily any more, and will instead publish the number of daily tests processed.

“This is because the daily people tested statistic only counts new people being tested. For example, someone who was tested in February, and then tested again this month, would be counted once.

“Considering hospital and care home staff will now be tested on a regular basis, we don’t think this statistic would be an accurate reflection of the amount of daily testing that is taking place.

“Test and trace statistics published weekly will include the number of people who have been tested.”

Downing Street had planned to reintroduce a revised version of the tally but scrapped the proposals without explanation. It also failed to say how many remote testing kits have been processed.

The government regularly discloses the number of testing kits sent out but has yet to publish how many have returned.

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