Matt Hancock today insisted the Government was on track to meet its target of 500,000 Covid-19 tests a day by the end of October — despite needing an increase of 38 per cent in just days.
“The number of people we are testing is now over a third of a million a day and we are on track to a capacity of half a million by the end of the month,” the Health Secretary told LBC Radio.
Pressed on the importance of quality rather than just quantity, with the test-and-trace-system failing to get close to the required numbers of people who get their test results back in 24 hours and the number of “contacts” traced, he added: “We are bringing the turnaround times down.”
Official figures yesterday showed testing capacity was at 361,573 on October 22, so it would need an increase of 38 per cent in just over a week to get to 500,000. Looking at the number of tests actually done, 340,132, the rise would have to be even steeper at 47 per cent.
Ministers trumpeted at the end of May achieving a target of 200,000 tests but this was capacity, rather than tests carried out, and dipped below this level shortly afterwards before starting to increase again later.
The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has said test-and-trace is only having a “marginal” impact on limiting the virus spread.
It comes amid growing criticism of Baroness Harding, the Tory peer who leads the test-and-trace programme.
MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the parliamentary liaison committee, called for her to be replaced, saying she should be given a “well-earned rest”.