“It’s over a quarter of a million people being tested [per day]”

Robert Buckland, BBC News

November 5, 2020

Facts

Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, told the BBC that “over a quarter of a million people” were being tested every day. However, this figure is actually the total number of tests processed, not the number of people tested. The government doesn’t publish figures on the total number of people tested each day. The total number of people tested will actually be lower than this figure, as many people are tested more than once - Public Health England recommends that labs test borderline positive cases a second time. 

We don’t know how many tests are being carried out on average for every person tested, because the government doesn’t publish these figures. 

Charlie Stayt of the BBC challenged Buckland on this, saying: "I think it's really important we get clarity on this. You're quoting the number of tests processed. The question I'm asking very clearly, and we have been down this path before, is how many people have been tested."

Buckland responded: “I haven’t got the up-to-date figure with regard to yesterday.” 

Verdict

We cannot tell whether or not Robert Buckland was misleading TV viewers since the number of people tested is not publicly available. But full credit to the BBC’s Charlie Stayt for questioning Robert Buckland’s use of statistics. If only some of his colleagues would have followed his example.

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