100,000 tests a day?

The government has set itself an ambitious target

Download Perspecs

Can the UK conduct 100,000 coronavirus tests a day?

By Joe Harker

The UK has been lagging behind when it comes to testing for the coronavirus, though efforts are being made to fix that.

Last month the goal was to get testing to a level of 25,000 a day by mid-April, though the government are now aiming to test 100,000 people a day by the end of the month.

There is no timetable on a commitment made by prime minister Boris Johnson on March 25 to conduct 250,000 tests a day, though health secretary Matt Hancock has said it still stands and is the government's long term testing goal.

With the current level of tests being done a day reaching around 10,000 is it realistic for the government to increase their testing capacity tenfold by the end of April?

The Claim:

That's the health secretary's aim and he has announced it to the nation at the government's daily coronavirus press conferences. Speaking of the 100,000 Covid-19 tests a day target, Hancock said he was "determined we'll get there".

Swab tests in labs run by Public Health England are the main part of the government's strategy but they also plan to use private businesses and universities to expand their ability to test.

They also want to use the extra data that comes from doing more tests to map out the spread of the coronavirus.

The current statistics on the confirmed cases are very misleading as they are nowhere near the actual figures. People who think they have the virus are told to stay home and self-isolate, with NHS staff and those admitted to hospital being tested as a priority.

The government would look like it had failed if it didn't reach the very clearly defined target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. They need to retain public trust in handling the crisis and missing obvious targets is one of the easiest ways to lose said trust.

The Counter Claim:

However, ministers are facing a significant struggle when it comes to hitting their target according to The Guardian.

NHS staff say they are ready to conduct more tests but lack the kit, chemicals and components to do so.

The government's plan to significantly boost testing has been dealt a blow after it turned out that millions of antibody tests they had ordered are too inaccurate to be relied upon. None of the ones they had tried to buy are good enough to use, so millions of antibody tests won't soon be available to the public.

Ministers are also facing criticism for not acting to boost testing capacity sooner, with questions asked as to why the government was so late to testing.

The Facts:

Whether they manage to hit their testing target or not it is imperative that the number of tests being done is increased. At their current rate it would take around 18 years to test everyone in the UK for the coronavirus.

Getting testing levels up to 100,000 a day would reduce that timetable to around 1.8 years and if the government hits the eventual target of 250,000 tests a day it would take them less than a year to test everyone.

Testing is important to determine whether someone has the coronavirus, which the NHS antigen swab test does, while the government is attempting to secure antibody blood tests which will be able to tell whether someone has previously had it.

Knowing who has had the virus and who currently has it are important parts of tackling the pandemic. If someone has recovered from Covid-19 and is a key worker in the response to the disease then they can return to their work.

Download Perspecs
Download Perspecs