Prime Minister Boris Johnson
02 November 2020

Achieving 500,000 testing capacity target ‘considerable’ – Boris Johnson

02 November 2020

The UK’s Covid-19 testing capacity has surpassed 500,000, reaching a target Boris Johnson promised to meet by the end of October.

The latest data on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard shows that there is currently a capacity for 519,770 tests, but just 270,473 tests were actually processed.

The Prime Minister described meeting the target as “considerable” and thanked those working on the NHS Test and Trace system.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, Mr Johnson said: “First of all, Mr Speaker, again NHS Test and Trace, whatever the drawbacks, whatever the frustrations that people legitimately feel, it will achieve its target of 500,000 capacity by the end of October.

“It already has achieved that target, and I think that’s a considerable thing to have done.

“I thank everybody working in NHS Test and Trace for their efforts.

“As I say, we need people to self-isolate to give the system the effectiveness that it needs.”

Meanwhile, the outgoing director of the NHS Test and Trace programme admitted that testing is “by no means perfect” as she hands over to former Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe.

In a thread of tweets, Sarah-Jane Marsh wrote that the programme needed to give “even greater control to local systems”, adding that “most of all we need to better communicate that testing is a means to an end not an end (in) itself”.

“It is not the strategy, it enables the strategy, and whilst we have a scaled diagnostic capability to be proud of, testing alone will never be the answer,” she added.

“Achieving the capacity to test 500,000 people a day for COVID-19 is one of my proudest moments ever. No one can know what it has taken to build it – lab by lab, machine by machine, supply by supply, amazing person by amazing person – in an unimaginably complex environment,” she wrote.

She added: “Test and Trace has been the ride of a lifetime, the best of days, the worst of days.”

Mr Johnson admitted last month that the Test and Trace system needs to improve, after it was revealed that just one in seven people having a test at a centre were getting their result back in 24 hours.

He said he shared people’s “frustrations” with the system and said there needed to be faster turnaround times.

Mr Johnson made the 500,000 pledge back on July 17 when testing capacity stood at 200,000 per day.

This was not the first target the Government set itself regarding testing since the pandemic began.

On April 2, after several days of intense scrutiny over failures in testing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock set a target of achieving 100,000 daily coronavirus tests in England by the end of April.

At this time, only about 10,000 tests were being carried out each day, but Mr Hancock remained confident that the target would be met.

Some 80,000 were carried out on April 29 – but it jumped by 40,000 in the final 24 hours to just over 120,000.

The Government said it met its target, with Mr Hancock heralding this as an “incredible achievement”.

He said 122,347 tests were performed in the 24 hours to 9am on Friday May 1.

But questions were raised over how the tests were counted, with changes in the last few days meaning newer home test kits were counted as they were sent out.

The overall total also included tests dispatched to “satellite testing locations” – such as hospitals that had a particularly urgent need – but did not detail whether the tests were actually used.

It meant the number of tests known to have been carried out in the 24 hours, as opposed to delivered, was 81,978.

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