Health secretary Matt Hancock previously set a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. Figures he gave at the daily briefing stated that testing figures had hit 122,347 on 30 April 2020.
Many senior Tories repeated the claim, including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Tom Tugendhat.
On 1 May 2020, Michael Gove quoted a BBC Breaking News announcement, which repeated the claim, saying: “A quite amazing achievement - congratulations to @MattHancock and @JimBethell and their team - such an important milestone in the fight against COVID 19.”
On the same day, Tom Tugendhat tweeted: Well there’s something - @MattHancock has done brilliantly. By focussing attention and prioritising he’s more than beaten his target. Congratulations to@all @NHSuk who delivered and Matt for his impressive leadership.”
On 2 May 2020, the @10DowningStreet twitter account wrote: “On 30 April there were 122,347 #coronavirus tests, exceeding our target of 100,000 tests per day.”
But comments from the Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England showed that the claim was false.
When asked by journalists, Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, confirmed that tests that are sent to people at home or to satellite centres are counted at the point they are sent, rather than when the tests are completed.
Professor Newton said: “For any tests which go outside of the control of the programme, they are counted as soon as they leave the programme. That’s for the tests that go out to people home and in satellite centres.”
Of the 122,347 tests that the government has said were completed on April 30, 27,497 are home tests and 12,872 were sent out to satellite sites. This suggests that just 81,978 of the tests were actually processed.
A later report published by The House of Commons Science and Technology and Health and Social Care Committees also stated: “The 100,000 target was announced as having been achieved by 30 April, although to do so required including tests which had been distributed by mail but which had not been processed.”
The lack of clarity on tests saw the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, write to Matt Hancock asking him to clarify whether his new target of 200,000 referred to testing capacity; tests that have been administered; test results received; or the number of people tested.
Matt Hancock’s response confirmed that the target referred to testing capacity, and not tests performed.
He also said: “We are reconciling our approach to reporting across the different testing pillars to ensure consistency, and I have asked the Chief Statistician at the Department of Health and Social Care to continue working with you to ensure we provide the best information about COVID-19 testing.”
See the full report from FullFact.
The claim from Matt Hancock, and many other senior Tories, was challenged by the expert testimony of Professor John Newton.
When we asked Matt Hancock to respond to the claims laid out in this website, a spokesperson said: “This list is false, wildly inaccurate, and in some cases possibly even defamatory. For example claiming that some of Matt's claims in the Commons were in defiance of the ministerial code, when they were in fact accurate. The priority throughout this unprecedented pandemic has been saving lives.”