The UK government’s testing targets for Covid-19 have come under scrutiny ever since they were announced at the beginning of April.
On 12 May, health secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the government was meeting its 100,000 tests per day target.
We set a goal of 100,000 tests a day and we are meeting it. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health
Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it Mostly False.
The UK government announced on 2 April it would carry out 100,000 Covid-19 tests each day by the end of April. When the plan was announced, around 10,000 tests were being done per day.
The wording of the target varied in government announcements, with the UK Prime Minister Twitter account saying the target was to “test 100,000 people per day”.
It was then claimed that the target had been achieved on 30 April, when 122,347 tests were logged. However, only 73,191 people were tested on that day. The 122,347 includes 27,497 home tests sent out and 12,872 which were sent out to satellite testing sites.
As revealed by the Health Service Journal on 1 May and confirmed by Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, tests are counted at the point they are sent out to people or satellite centres, not when they are completed. This means the amount of tests carried out does not equate to the amount of people who have been tested each day, or the amount of completed tests. It is likely a proportion of those sent out will not be returned or improperly taken.
Matt Hancock said on the Today programme on 12 May that the government had “set a goal of 100,000 tests a day” and was “meeting it”.
The 100,000 target has only been achieved four times, on 30 April, 1 May, 10 May and 13 May. The number of people tested in a given day reached 73,191 on April 30, and has not climbed higher since.
It is not clear what exactly the mentioned targets are supposed to refer to.
On 6 May, Boris Johnson announced that the government’s ambition was to reach 200,000 tests per day by the end of May. The UK’s statistical regulator wrote to Matt Hancock to request clarity on whether the government’s targets are supposed to reflect testing capacity, tests that have been administered, test results received or the number of people tested.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly False
Matt Hancock’s claim that the UK government is meeting its coronavirus testing targets is misleading. The goal of 100,000 or more tests per day has been achieved four times, but includes tests sent out to satellite testing stations and homes. These tests may not have been completed.
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