“We are testing 330,000 people a day.”

Nick Gibb MP, BBC Today Programme

August 5, 2020

Facts

Discussing the UK’s Test and Trace system, Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, told Today that 330,000 people were being tested for Covid-19 each day.

However, the Test and Trace system only covered England and at that time did not publish a daily figure for the number of people being tested. Test and Trace data available at the time said that 366,397 people were newly tested in the week that ended on 22 July. This would suggest that on average roughly 52,000 were being newly tested each day. 

Including previously tested people, and people tested in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, would make this number higher, but still not anything like 330,000 a day.

We now know according to the latest Government testing data the most tests completed in a single day up to August 5th was 170,027, which occurred on July 30th. 

The UK’s daily testing capacity at the time stood at around 338,000. However, this figure included antibody and surveillance tests that were not part of the Test and Trace programme. 

When Gibb was challenged on his incorrect statement by John Kay on BBC Breakfast the following day, he said “I don’t know what you’re referring to”, instead of clarifying his error.

When contacted later by fact-checking organisation, Full Fact, a spokesperson for Mr Gibb’s office said, “the Minister unintentionally misspoke. When he said ‘we are testing…’ he should have said ‘we are able to test…’; he was referring to testing capacity in the system.”

Verdict

Nick Gibb was confusing testing capacity with individuals tested. 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, and here

There is no evidence to show that any of these individual examples involved lying. Ministers may have made their statements in good faith. But it is reasonable to state that collectively the Johnson government has repeatedly misled, deceived and indeed lied to the British people about the government record on Covid testing. All the more since so many succumbed to the same confusion between tests performed and individuals tested.

PreviousNext