Government on verge of reaching testing target after late surge

By Ryan Hooper, PA

The Government’s ambitious daily coronavirus testing target could yet be met after Boris Johnson announced a sudden increase in the number carried out.

The Prime Minister said 81,611 tests were performed on Wednesday, up from 52,429 the day before.

The testing numbers for Thursday are expected to be announced on Friday, which will confirm whether the Government’s 100,000 target for the end of the month – set by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on April 2 – has been reached.

So low were the figures going into Thursday that Justice Secretary Robert Buckland acknowledged the goal might be missed.

But the Government has continued to expand those eligible for tests, drawing criticism from NHS Providers who described it as a “red herring” which it said distracted from shortcomings in the long-term strategy to contain coronavirus.

Speaking during the Downing Street press briefing on Thursday, Mr Johnson said: “You’re going to be hearing a lot more in the course of the next couple of days as you can imagine about where we are with testing.

“You heard me say earlier on today that we’ve got the numbers up to I think 86,000-plus, but there is clearly a massive way to go.

“In principle, every key worker in this country should be able to get a test and we want that to happen, we’re massively ramping up testing.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers – which represents hospitals and NHS trusts in England, said there would need to be between 110,00 and 120,000 tests a day for each NHS staff member to be tested once a week.

The Government has also come into criticism after repeatedly running out of its online testing kits, while its makeshift drive-through test centres have encountered delays and long queues.

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