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THE government is on course to miss its target of conducting 200,000 coronavirus tests per day by the weekend, compounding its failure to hit last month’s.
On May 6, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “the ambition clearly is to get up to 200,000 a day” by the end of the month, which is on Monday.
Labour has accused the government of “moving the goalposts” in order to appear to meet its previous target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, by counting tests that had been sent out or conducted, but had yet to return results.
In the 24 hours up to 9am on Thursday, 119,587 tests were carried out or testing kits dispatched, but there were still no totals available of how many kits were used or results returned.
On Wednesday, the number of daily tests stood at 117,000.
Asked if the 200,000 target would be met, the PM’s spokesman told a Westminster briefing that the government was confident of hitting it by Monday.
However, according to senior scientists, the target is “meaningless,” as the data on testing does not adhere to the basic rules of statistics.
Experts told the Guardian that the daily figures appeared to be “almost designed to confuse,” making it impossible to judge whether current levels of testing are adequate to support the “track and trace” programme supposedly launched yesterday.
Concern was expressed over the government’s failure to release data on the number of people tested, and the reported double-counting of multiple swabs from the same individuals.
Further confusion came from the inclusion in the daily figures of tests that have been posted to homes and satellite labs, but not returned.
“It’s very difficult, even for someone like me whose living has centred on numbers, to know exactly what is going on,” Professor John Ashton, a former regional director of public health and regional medical officer for the north-west of England, told the newspaper.
“We don’t know how many people have been tested. We don’t know how many tests have been satisfactory. There’s a real problem of transparency and trust,” he said.
Former government chief scientist and chair of the independent Sage committee David King said that the test-and-trace programme should have been tested for a week and shown “good results” before the lockdown was eased in any way.
To do otherwise wuold risk a second wave of the outbreak, he said.
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