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Downing Street concedes Covid-19 testing targets will be missed

GOVERNMENTS are under pressure after conceding today that targets for the number of coronavirus tests carried out each day are set to be missed. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock had announced a target of 100,000 tests to be carried out daily by the end of April. 

Downing Street insisted the government was “working hard” to hit the target but ministers conceded it may not be met, with capacity levels at 77,365 tests on Tuesday, when 52,000 exams were carried out.

NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and NHS trusts in England, described the target as a “red herring” which has distracted attention from failings in the long-term Covid-19 strategy.

Chief executive Chris Hopson said as many as 120,000 tests would be needed daily for NHS workers once Britain comes out of lockdown to stave off a second wave of the virus.

Mr Hopson said: “What we need to know is what are we going to do in terms of the testing regime over the next six, eight, 10, 12 weeks as we come out of lockdown?

“If you look at the international experience, having the right testing regime is absolutely crucial in conquering this virus.”

Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for clear strategy and expanded testing, describing unused capacity as “a wasted opportunity.”

The MP added: “We need the fundamentals of infectious disease control in place with a strategy for testing, isolation and tracing.”

In Scotland pressure has been put on the government to answer questions about its own testing record, having pledged to test around 3,500 people per day. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had also said it was the intention of her government to conduct 10,000 per day – 10 per cent of Britain’s 100,000 target.

Despite this, an average of 1,396 people have been tested on a daily basis by NHS Scotland in the past week. 

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Questions need to be answered about why the government has failed to heed advice and will miss their own targets so badly.”

Speaking at the Scottish government’s briefing today, Ms Sturgeon said a full update on testing progress would be provided tomorrow, covering both capacity and the number being carried out, which continue to increase. 

The Department for Health and Social Care had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.

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