Britain was promised 100,000 daily virus tests by today – but Matt Hancock is on course to be humiliated and miss his ambitious target by nearly half.
Latest figures show 52,429 virus tests were performed on Tuesday, tens of thousands off the daily goal meant to be reached by today.
This was despite a huge expansion of the eligibility criteria the previous day, which saw tests offered to over-65s with virus symptoms, those who have to leave home to work and all care home staff and residents.
The Health Secretary made his pledge to boost testing to 100,000 a day on April 2, when the UK was carrying out just 10,000 daily.
A scathing report by hospital leaders yesterday claimed the target was merely a ‘red herring’ to distract from failings in the Government’s testing plan.
NHS Providers claimed the UK had ‘started from a poor position’ and then consistently ‘struggled’ – with a lack of clarity on who would be tested, when and how, adding: ‘A vast amount still remains to be done to reach a testing regime that can be described as fit for purpose.’
The document highlights how the English health and care system ‘started from a poor position’ as Covid-19 tightened its grip on Europe, and consistently ‘struggled’ to demonstrate a ‘clear, effective and well communicated strategy’.
Matt Hancock is on course to miss his ambitious target of 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by nearly half. Latest figures show 52,429 virus tests were performed on Tuesday
NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and NHS trusts in England, said leaders ‘stand ready to play their part’ in testing regimes, but said they needed to know ‘a lot more, as quickly as possible’ to do so.
It also suggested ministers were too set on driving up testing numbers rather than focusing on which individuals needed them most.
Although that number has increased five-fold over the past four weeks, Mr Hancock now faces accusations his testing strategy has been ‘chaotic’ and too focused on an arbitrary goal.
Meanwhile, former Labour health secretary and mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, branded the strategy ‘haphazard’ and said it contained little discussion with public health officials.
He said there is a view among council leaders that ministers had been ‘chasing the target without fully thinking through the strategy at a local level’.
Professor Allyson Pollock, a public health doctor and former director of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, claimed the Government’s approach was ‘chaotic and confused’.
She said there was no point in ramping up testing criteria without ‘contact tracing’, which means tracking down anyone else patients with the virus have been in touch with.
A medical worker at a drive-in coronavirus testing facility at the Chessington World of Adventures Resort in south west London
The government’s testing co-ordinator Professor John Newton said he is ‘pretty confident’ the 100,000 daily target for coronavirus tests will be met
Mr Hancock was also suspected of desperately trying to boost testing numbers at the 11th hour by suddenly offering tests to NHS workers without symptoms.
Dr Julia Prague, of Imperial College Hospital in west London, claimed her NHS Trust had suddenly announced a one-day pilot to test ‘asymptomatic’ workers.
She tweeted: ‘Call me a cynic but why, when we’ve repeatedly not been offered tests as symptomatic front line doctors, today… my large London NHS Trust announces a one-day pilot to test all asymptomatic staff who’d like a test.’
Earlier, Professor John Newton, the Government’s testing co-ordinator, said: ‘We are pretty confident we will hit that target.’
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ‘by the end of the week we will know whether we have reached that target’.
No 10 had said ministers would not necessarily know if they have reached the target until next week due to a lag time in reporting of home testing figures.
On a more positive note, Professor Newton revealed an antibody test to show which individuals have already had the virus could be ready by the end of May.
Meanwhile, it was reported the Government turned down an offer from Californian firm Curative to do 10,000 tests a day earlier this month, according to The Guardian.
Courtesy DAILY MAIL