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Boris Johnson’s Conservative government are set to fall woefully short on their pledge to ramp up Coronavirus testing to 100,000 people a day – with a leading scientist blaming a “macho” focus on headline-grabbing figures for the impending failure.
At the beginning of April, the Conservative Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, responded to widespread criticism at the lack of Coronavirus testing in the UK by promising that 100,000 tests would be carried out each day by the end of April.
Yet, with just 10 days to go, the level of testing has barely reached 25% of the government’s promise – and leading scientists are now warning that it will be impossible for Boris Johnson’s government to make good on their pledge.
Countries such as Germany and South Korea – who have both suffered far fewer deaths than the UK during the Coronavirus pandemic – have placed huge significance on testing, with both having carried out more than 100,000 tests each day for the past few weeks.
However, on Saturday 18th April, fewer than 22,000 tests were carried out in the UK – doubling from 10,000 a day on April 2nd, but still woefully short of the government’s 100,000 promise.
On the same day, the government confirmed that the UK still only has the capacity to carry out 38,000 tests each day.
Despite this, the government’s Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove, continued to insist that the government would meet their own target – but leading scientists are sceptical.
Professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, Paul Hunter, told The Guardian:
“I cannot see that being achieved – it was always designed to be a headline grabber rather than anything else.”
Whilst Professor Sheila Bird, formerly of the Medical Research Council’s biostatistics unit at the University of Cambridge, warned that “The level of incompetence in reporting these tests is outrageous”, adding:
“This macho thing about the number of tests done each day is leading to a reporting standard that makes the data almost uninterpretable.”
Since the beginning of the outbreak, the World Health Organization has consistently advised governments that the best way to contain the virus is to implement a “test and trace” strategy – a policy successfully implemented by countries such as Germany, Singapore and South Korea.
Whilst the UK initially implemented a test and trace strategy following the first confirmed cases in the country, Boris Johnson’s government completely abandoned the procedure in early March.
Since then, the UK has recorded the highest single day death toll of any country in Europe – 980 death in 24 hours – and many are predicting that, by the end of the pandemic, Britain will have surpassed Italy and Spain to record the highest overall death toll in the whole of Europe.
On Friday, Matt Hancock said that the government would, at some point, be reintroducing contact tracing through a yet-to-be-made smartphone app – but many are predicting that the damage has already been done.