UK delivers on target to carry out 100,000 tests a day

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London to appear on the Andrew Marr show.

Aaron Chown | PA Images via Getty Images

U.K. Health Minister Matt Hancock said 122,347 tests were carried out on Thursday, meaning the government has delivered on its self-imposed target of 100,000 daily tests by the end of April.

“I knew that it was an audacious goal, but we needed an audacious goal because testing is so important to getting Britain back on its feet,” Hancock said at the government’s daily briefing on Friday.

“This unprecedented expansion in British testing capability is an incredible achievement but it is not my achievement it is a national achievement,” he added.

It comes after more than 81,000 people were tested for the disease on Wednesday, a sharp increase from the just 52,000 tests carried out on Tuesday.

The U.K.’s coronavirus death toll now stands at 27,510 people, Hancock said, an increase of 739 from the previous day. Over 177,000 people have tested positive for the disease.

On April 2, Hancock said the government would deliver 100,000 daily tests by the end of the month by increasing testing across five key pillars.

These were: National Health Service (NHS) swab testing for patients and key workers, commercial swab testing for key workers nationwide, antibody tests, population surveillance testing and, British life sciences companies turning their resources to mass testing.

At the time, Hancock said testing would be “mission-critical as we fight this battle against Covid-19.”

Britain has now achieved a “very substantial and flexible testing capability,” John Newton, leader of the government’s testing program, said at the briefing on Friday.

“It will be used to drive extensive contact tracing to control any new infections, to help us keep patients and staff safe in hospitals and care services and to tell us with some precision how the virus has spread across the country and is spreading in the future,” he added.

The NHS is developing a contact tracing app that will be used to alert people if they have come into contact with an infected individual. It will reportedly be ready in “two to three weeks” time.

‘Red herring’

NHS providers, which represent hospitals and NHS trusts across the U.K., described the government’s target of 100,000 daily Covid-19 tests as a “red herring.”

Instead, the leading hospitals group said in a statement on Thursday that it was distracting from the key issue — “the need for a clear, updated, testing strategy as we start planning to exit lockdown.”

On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. had passed the peak of the virus for the first time. The former Mayor of London did not set out a roadmap for the country’s lockdown exit strategy.

Britain has been on lockdown for nearly six weeks now, a policy that has taken a harsh toll on its economy.

“We will be saying a lot more next week and in the coming weeks about how and when we propose to unlock the various parts of the U.K. economy,” Johnson said in Thursday’s briefing.

It was also revealed that the U.K.’s so-called “R” rate — or reproduction rate — had fallen below 1. The “R” rate is a key metric for scientists and governments. A value of less than 1 means that each person infected with Covid-19 is likely to infect less than one person on average.

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