Government 'very confident' UK will hit 100,000 daily coronavirus test target

The government is “very confident” it will hit the target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April, according to its testing co-ordinator.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston show, the government’s Covid-19 testing co-ordinator, Professor John Newton, said the UK “certainly has the capacity” to hit the target.

“We will make access as easy as possible for everybody who needs a test to come and get it, and if there are enough people who need testing then we will hit our target, we're very confident of that,” Prof Newton added.

He said 100,000 coronavirus tests a day will be more than enough to track and trace the population on a large scale.

Prof Newton said: “We’re very confident that 100,000 tests is enough to support whatever strategy the government wants to pursue.

“If you look at other countries, for example South Korea, they've never done more than 20,000 tests a day, in fact they're currently doing about 8,000 tests a day.”

He said 100,000 tests a day would be enough to hit demand, but he said the UK has the capacity to deliver further tests.

“If you can do 100,000, you can do 200,000, it's not that difficult,” Prof Newton added.

The government said testing has been lower than expected. Credit: PA

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the benefit of testing is demonstrated in South Korea, which has experienced far fewer deaths than the UK.

He told the Peston show: "The overall impact of that grip on the disease of testing in the community, is that Korea has never had more than nine deaths on any one day, it's absolutely staggering, and Germany has had a third of our deaths, despite having a larger population...that is the power of testing."

Mr Hunt said people who suspect they have Covid-19 should be able to call 111 and get tested at home "at an earlier stage of the cycle" and also test the people that person has been in close contact with.

"You are monitoring much more accurately exactly where the disease is," he added.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day at the beginning of the month.

The Department of Health confirmed 22,814 tests were carried out on Tuesday.

The government was taken to task by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs, who asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab how it was possible to jump from 18,000 tests per day, to 100,000 tests in just eight days.

Mr Raab responded, saying a “project like this does require an exponential increase in the final days and final week of the programme.”

He suggested the reason so few tests had been carried out compared to the capacity was because demand needed to be "increased".

Prof Newton agreed and said he was expecting more testing over the next week.

"There will be a lot more access for a lot more people quite soon,” he explained.

“There are five million critical workers across the country, we've only just opened up to them, so we're expecting a lot more testing in the next week or so."

Prof Newton said eligibility for the coronavirus test has been expanded to all key workers.

"We've put that benefit out now to the police, to the prison service, to all the people, supermarket workers even, who we need all of you, who are doing those jobs to be back at work if you don't have Covid.”

In response to being asked whether supermarket workers can apply for a test, Prof Newton said: "Well we're just opening up, as you say we have got spare capacity, so we'd love to be using these tests."

He said the Army has built mobile testing units which can visit care homes and test residents and staff, and Amazon will be delivering tests to people’s homes.

Prof Newton said the government was “rolling out really large scale testing” to care homes for those not showing symptoms of the virus, but who might test positive.