“We are now testing 250,000 people a day”

Rishi Sunak, BBC Breakfast

October 6, 2020

Facts

Rishi Sunak told BBC Breakfast that the government was now testing 250,000 people a day. However, the figure he referred to was actually the total number of tests conducted, not the number of people tested. At the time, the government didn’t publish figures on the total number of people tested each day.

As a report from FullFact stated, the total number of people tested will always 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 can’t know how many tests are being carried out on average for every person tested, because the government doesn’t publish these figures. 

Verdict 

Rishi Sunak’s claim that 250,000 people a day were being tested was a fabrication. He was citing the total number of tests processed rather than the number of people tested. Since many people are tested more than once, Sunak’s figure was misleading and virtually meaningless. We further note that Government Ministers have exaggerated the number of tests carried out on a very large number of occasions. While individual Ministers may have been in the dark about the fact that they were misleading the public, collectively it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Johnson government systematically and deliberately misled the British people about the success of the testing program.

Though not the most serious, this was one of a long series of false statements by ministers about Covid tests. Examples can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

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