Britain looks set to miss 100,000 coronavirus tests a day target laid down by Matt Hancock


Health bosses look set to miss their own coronavirus testing target with just three days to go, in what would be an embarrassing blow. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, insisted last month that Britain would be conducting 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. 

But just 29,058 tests took place on Saturday, the latest figures showed last night. 

The military has been brought in to assist in the drive to hit the target – with mobile testing units sent to care homes, police stations, fire stations, benefits offices and prisons to boost the numbers of key workers who are swabbed. 

The military has been deployed at mobile testing centres, including the one at Chessington above, to make sure key workers are being tested for coronavirus 

Acting Prime Minister Dominic Raab spoke to Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday as Britain looked deseperately short of the 100,000 tests a day target the government had previously pledged

Acting Prime Minister Dominic Raab spoke to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday as Britain looked deseperately short of the 100,000 tests a day target the government had previously pledged 

Acting Prime Minister Dominic Raab yesterday said he was confident new data published after the weekend would show a significant increase in testing numbers – particularly after massively expanding the eligibility for testing to a pool of ten million key workers and their families. 

But with the booking website for that system still showing problems – with all home testing kits and drive-through slots disappearing within two hours of opening yesterday morning – it looks unlikely the new scheme will provide the numbers needed. 

Mr Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show: ‘The new data will come out, the data has always got a lag to it, but on Monday we’ll get the updated data. 

I think there’s two things which have happened which will give us confidence that we are actually on track to meet the target. 

‘First of all, with the NHS portal, we are making sure that people can access the test either through home kits, at any one of the 31 drivethrough centres and, increasingly, mobile testing labs. 

Matt Hancock had pledged Brits there would be 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April

Matt Hancock had pledged Brits there would be 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April

‘The military are helping to disseminate those, spread those across the country. 

‘The second thing is we focused initially on NHS workers, then on care workers. 

‘We have now broadened it to essential workers and so I think we are going to see a big surge on the last week and we are on track to hit that target. 

‘Testing is really important, not just in eliminating the virus for good sustainably down the track, but also, as we consider the second phase, it can help us and give us more room for manoeuvre in terms of easing up on the measures, because you can monitor very carefully who has and who hasn’t got the virus.’ 

Although Mr Hancock’s aim was to carry out 100,000 tests a day – a target that he has repeatedly confirmed – ministers have subtly moved the goalposts in recent days to make it seem their target was simply to create the ‘capacity’ to carry out that many tests. 

Mr Raab yesterday repeated that approach. 

‘Our capacity for carrying out tests is now at 51,000 per day – so we have passed the halfway line to our target,’ he said. 

That capacity received another boost last night with scientists at King’s College London opening up a new diagnostics lab to help the NHS process testing swabs. 

Hundreds of volunteers affiliated to the university, including PhD students, research assistants and post-doctoral students, have signed up to process tests. 

The lab is using a heat process to inactivate the samples without compromising test results. 

Medical workers have been working at testing facilities including this one in east London, but they are now being joined by members of the military

Medical workers have been working at testing facilities including this one in east London, but they are now being joined by members of the military 

The 102 Logistic Brigade and 16 Signal Regiment have been training in mobile testing at an army barracks in Lincolnshire as Britain tries to deliver as many coronavirus tests as possible

The 102 Logistic Brigade and 16 Signal Regiment have been training in mobile testing at an army barracks in Lincolnshire as Britain tries to deliver as many coronavirus tests as possible

It means that the team will not be put at risk of infection if they face shortages of personal protective equipment. 

Dr Michael Malim, head of the School of Immunology and Microbial Sciences at King’s College, said: ‘Within the horror of the pandemic, we have found that people really want to help. It’s a ray of light.’ 

After biomedical research centre the Francis Crick Institute opened its repurposed lab earlier this month, director Paul Nurse said: ‘Institutes like ours are coming together with a Dunkirk spirit – small boats that collectively can have a huge impact on the national endeavour.’ 

Meanwhile, leading Government adviser Neil Ferguson urged ministers to adopt a South Korean-style ‘test, track and trace’ system. 

The country has one of the lowest mortality rates from coronavirus in the world, with only 242 deaths as of yesterday. 

Professor Ferguson, of Imperial College, said: ‘Lockdown is not sustainable long-term – we have to move to a different model. 

‘If we can get case numbers down low enough then I think we can look to the Korean model of how we can sustain control of transmission long-term. It’s not certain we can achieve it, but it is certainly something we need to try given the economic, social and every other cost of lockdown.’

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