"On 30 April there were 122,347 #coronavirus tests, exceeding our target of 100,000 tests per day."

Boris Johnson, Twitter

May 2, 2020

Facts

This cited the figures provided by Matt Hancock at the daily briefing stated that testing figures had hit 122,347 on April 30.

Many senior Tories had repeated the claim, including Michael Gove and Tom Tugendhat.

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 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 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 repeated Hancock’s claim and it was equally open to challenge.

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