"We have growing confidence that we will have a test, track and test operation that will be world-beating and yes it will be in place by June 1"

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

May 20, 2020

Facts

In his weekly exchange with Labour leader Keir Starmer, Boris Johnson made the grandiose claim that “We have growing confidence that we will have a test, track and test operation that will be world-beating and yes it will be in place by June 1.”

SAGE Committee member Jeremy Farrar later wrote: “Despite the PM claiming it would be world-beating, it was not really functional nor anywhere near the capacity needed to make a difference.”

The June 1st deadline was not met. 

The Guardian reported on June 4th 2020 that the test and trace system would not be fully functional until September.   

On June 18th 2020, more than two weeks after the promised deadline, the New York Times reported that the program was beset with issues. 

Jeremy Farrar records that “SAGE concluded later in the year that Test and Trace, launched in late May, delivered only a marginal benefit…” 

Verdict

Boris Johnson’s statement in the Commons suggesting that Britain would have a “world-beating” test, track and trace system in place by June 1st turned out to be false. We cannot say for certain whether there was any evidence to make this a reasonable belief at the time that the prediction was made 10 days earlier, or whether (much more likely) it was another example of Johnson’s hyperbolic optimism with no underlying basis in fact. This time about a life and death matter. 

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