Was there really no capacity to test all patients sent from hospitals to care homes for Covid?

If Wednesday was the prosecution, on Thursday, we got the defence. So let me, as best I can, be the impartial jury.

On Wednesday, Dominic Cummings accused Matt Hancock of lying when he allegedly told Downing Street in March 2020 that all hospital patients would be tested for Covid-19 before being discharged into care homes, when in fact they weren't.

On Thursday, the health secretary admitted he did make that promise to the prime minister, but it was a pledge rather than an immediate action.

He claims that with testing capacity under strain, he set the target to test all patients before they were sent to care homes as soon as that capacity had been scaled up.

So how credible is that claim? Well, let's weigh up the evidence.

By April 20, 2020, the first date for which we have data, there were 532,229 tests for Covid-19 carried out in the UK. You'll remember the huge focus on capacity and the pledge to get to 100,000 tests a day.

How hard then, would it have been to test all patients discharged from hospital?

Well, last year we battled and battled to get data on how many were being sent into care homes at the outset of the pandemic.

In the end, NHS England finally sent us a spreadsheet showing that 25,000 were discharged between mid-March and mid-April last year (when routine testing was finally introduced).

A quick bit of maths means less than 5% of testing capacity in early 2020 would have been required to safeguard care homes by testing all the patients who arrived in that time from hospital.

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Is it really credible to claim therefore that testing capacity was the reason behind the failure? It's certainly not the first explanation we've had. Previously, the stock answer from government ministers was that they were unaware of asymptomatic transmission of the virus.

If this new argument about capacity is to be believed, then it begs a follow up question about why care homes weren't prioritised for testing.

What was more of a priority? Testing a 20-year-old in the community, or testing a patient being sent into a home full of vulnerable older people?

Matt Hancock promised that there'll be a time and place to go into these arguments in more detail. Until then, I'm not sure today's answers told the whole story.