Business Secretary Alok Sharma faced a grilling this morning over the lack of Government information on the number of people being tested for coronavirus every day.
The Secretary of State told BBC Breakfast that they had a testing capacity of over 200,000 a day during his morning media round on Monday.
But host Louise Minchin interrupted him to point out that the Government has not said how many people were being tested for the last nine days in a row.
She asked: “Can you tell us how many have been tested every day?”
Mr Sharma said he believed it was around 115,000, before Ms Minchin interrupted him again: “We know what the capacity is but how many people? If you could give me that figure, we would appreciate it.”
The Secretary of State replied: “As I said, I was under the impression that figure was set out in the press conference yesterday.
“Very happy to come back to you on that. But I think the important point here is that anyone who has symptoms now in England can be tested.
For around nine days the data on the number of PEOPLE tested for #coronavirus has not been available, despite capacity and test kit numbers being given online.
On #BBCBreakfast we asked Alok Sharma MP about those numbers ⤵️
More here: https://t.co/jWgofKMlf3 pic.twitter.com/5aPGazgglQ— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast)June 1, 2020
“We’ve built up the capacity, we’ve ensured the test and trace system is up and running and that, coupled with the capacity we have in place makes us confident that we have a system that works going forward for the population.”
Ms Minchin pushed him to provide the figure again to which he replied: “I’m very happy to come back to you or make sure we provide you with the information we have.”
Boris Johnson set a target of 200,000 tests a day earlier this month but this refers to the capacity rather than tests performed or people tested.
This is what I asked about yesterday - why has the “people tested” column been “unavailable” on a daily and cumulative basis for a week now (they have supplied the “number of tests” data in that time) 👇🏾 pic.twitter.com/eCbmsVMBEF— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam)May 30, 2020
The Government said on Sunday that 115,725 tests had been carried out, although they have not been giving out the number for how many individuals have actually been tested.
Throughout his media round, Mr Sharma also insisted the lockdown was being eased in a “very cautious” way.
It comes as pupils start to return to school today as major changes are made to coronavirus lockdown restrictions. People in England are allowed to meet up with up to six people from separate households outdoors, while more than two million people who have been shielding from the virus for the past 10 weeks will also be allowed to go outside.
Mr Sharma said he understood parents' concerns over sending their children back to school, but added that the Government had not undertaken a "dash" to re-start the economy.
The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) warned that experts were "increasingly concerned" that ministers are making the wrong judgment by easing restrictions too quickly.
Mr Sharma added: "This is not a dash. These are very cautious steps that we are taking. They are phased."