“I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was right last week when he paid tribute to the amazing work of the NHS, the logistics team and everybody involved in getting up from 2,000 tests a day in March to 120,000 by the end of April.”

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

May 5, 2020

Facts

Relying yet again on Hancock’s claim (see above), Johnson stated in a response to Labour leader Keir Starmer that there had been 120,000 tests a day by the end of April. 

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 April 30.

However, questions remained about whether the target had actually been hit. 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’s homes and in satellite centres.”

Of the 122,347 tests that the government has said were completed on April 30 2020, 27,497 were home tests and 12,872 were sent out to satellite sites. This suggests that just 81,978 of the tests were actually processed.

The lack of clarity on tests saw the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, wrote 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 200,000 tests a day 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.”

Verdict

Boris Johnson’s claim was misleading. His full statement remains on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.

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