/UK government believe they may have hit 100,000 testing target after all

UK government believe they may have hit 100,000 testing target after all

Government ministers believe they may have hit their 100,000 coronavirus tests target after all – hours after saying they’d probably missed it.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said yesterday “it’s probable that we won’t” hit the target to carry out 100,000 tests per day in NHS, public health, private and university labs.

But the number of tests carried out rocketed up from 52,429 on Tuesday to 81,611 on Wednesday – ahead of the aim to hit 100,000 yesterday.

Yesterday’s confirmed figures will only be published this afternoon, but ministers believe they may have got over the line.

Anecdotally, some lab staff have reported their busiest day ever after eligibility was widened to over-65s and anyone who must leave home for work, with symptoms.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News: “I think we will either have met it or be very close.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick: “I think we will either have met it or be very close”
(Image: via REUTERS)

If so, the 100,000-a-day target will be a major PR success for Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

But the challenge will now be keeping the numbers up in the coming days.

There could have been a surge in demand from all the people who were already sick when eligibility was first widened.

And labs need a large stack of reagents and other tools in order to keep testing more people than usual on an ongoing basis.

Mr Hancock had repeatedly been accused of setting an arbitrary target with little basis in science in order to gain headlines.

He and other ministers were also criticised for trying to shift the focus to testing capacity, rather than the number of tests actually carried out.

Francis Crick Institute Director Sir Paul Nurse told BBC Question Time: “The 100,000 target is just a figure with a lot of noughts in it. It was, as far as I was concerned, a bit of a PR stunt which has gone a bit wrong.

“I mean – 100,000? Why 100,000? Where was the strategy under that? I haven’t seen a strategy under it.

“It just sounded good. We shouldn’t get hung up on that.

“The real reality is this – if we’d had local testing connected to local hospitals we could have made hospitals a safe place.”

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But Mr Jenrick today said even if the target was almost hit, it “will have succeeded”.

He told Sky News: “It will have galvanised people across government, in the private sector and across the country.

“This in itself is just a stepping stone, we need to go beyond 100,000.

“But we have seen now a very substantial increase in testing in quite a short period of time, so in that sense it’s been a success, but there’s more to be done.”

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