- "I knew that it was an audacious goal, but we needed an audacious goal, because testing is so important for getting Britain back on her feet," Mr. Hancock said.
- Jonathan Ashworth, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, criticized the government's claims as misleading.
- England, Scotland, and Wales will now expand testing to more groups.
The UK government, which had promised to carry out 100,000 daily tests for the new coronavirus by April 30, said it had provided more than 122,000 tests on Friday. Health Minister Matt Hancock made the announcement at a regular meeting on May 1. The Health Secretary said that the testing capacity built would “help every single person in this country.”
“I knew that it was an audacious goal, but we needed an audacious goal, because testing is so important for getting Britain back on her feet,” Mr. Hancock said. “I can announce that we have met our goal. The number of tests yesterday, on the last day of April, was 122,347. This unprecedented expansion in British testing capability is an incredible achievement, but it is not my achievement, it is a national achievement.”
The number of 122,000 tests includes 40,000 inspection kits mailed directly to citizens’ homes on the 30th. Therefore, it may not be implemented yet. For this reason, Labour and other opposition parties have pointed out that the government did not fulfill its pledge to “execute 100,000 inspections.”
The target of 100,000 tests a day was promised by Mr. Hancock himself on April 2. By then, the number of daily tests in England was 10,000. To date, 27,510 people in the UK have died of COVID-19 diseases caused by the new coronavirus. That includes people who died in hospitals, nursing homes, at their own homes as a whole.
In order to increase the number of tests, the government prepared three “huge laboratories” as testing bodies for examining specimens, and established drive-through testing bases at about 50 locations. In addition, the government has set up a home testing service and a mobile testing center.
From the 122,347 tests provided in the 24 hours until the morning of May 1, more than 70,000 were actually inspected. This is because some people have to undergo multiple tests to get reliable results. The total number of tests provided includes 27,497 tests sent to the residents’ homes, and 12,782 tests delivered to the UK National Health Service (NHS) medical facilities. This portion may not be actually used. Alternatively, the specimen may not have been returned to the laboratory.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, criticized the government’s claims as misleading:
“Labour has repeatedly called for more testing, and increasing testing is an important milestone. But many would have expected the 100,000 promise to have been met by actually carrying out testing, not simply because 39,000 kits had been mailed out. The headline figure shouldn’t count tests that hadn’t been used, or indeed, might never be used as a completed test. Ministers promised transparency – the public and NHS staff deserve clarity.”
Before April 28, there was no explanation of how to count the tests. From the 28th, however, the guidance on the government site began to state that the number of cases at homes and temporary testing centers was also included. Professor John Newton, who is an epidemiologist and advises the government on the testing exercise, explained at a one-day press conference that the number of tests was the same as before.
Health Minister Hancock said the government’s “next mission” was to track the route of infection, saying, “by mid-May, 18,000 trackers will begin to work.” He added,”by combining official tracking with the new COVID-19 tracking app technology, we can see where the virus is spreading and control new infections.” Mr. Hancock further stated that in the next phase of the fight against infections, the government would like to reassure all people as much as possible while maintaining safety.
Initially, hospitals in the United Kingdom prioritized testing for COVID-19 only in seriously ill individuals. Their next priority was the medical and nursing staff and emergency services staff. Since late April, people in other occupations and their families, who are essential to maintaining the social function, have been tested in England only when they developed the disease.
From the end of the month, in England, those who are over the age of 65, those who have to go out for work, and those who live with such people will be included in the test. In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that it will extend testing to symptomatic people over the age of 65, and anyone involved in a mass-acquired nursing home. On the 1st, the Welsh government announced that all residents of nursing homes would be screened for asymptomatic symptoms.