We do not test 330,000 people a day for Covid-19
5th Aug 2020
330,000 people a day are being tested for Covid-19 under the Test and Trace programme.
This is not true. The real number, in England, is around 52,000. It will be slightly higher for the whole UK and if antibody and surveillance tests are included.
“We are testing 330,000 people a day.”
Nick Gibb MP, 5 August 2020 [2:26:34]
While talking about the government’s Test and Trace system on the Today programme, the schools minister, Nick Gibb, said that 330,000 people are being tested for Covid-19 each day.
The most recent Test and Trace data, however, says that 366,397 people were newly tested in the week that ended on 22 July. This would mean 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 for the whole UK, but not bring it close to 330,000 a day.
We contacted Mr Gibb’s office and a spokesperson told us, “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.”
The UK’s daily testing capacity currently stands at around 338,000. However, this figure includes antibody and surveillance tests that are not part of the Test and Trace programme. Nor is the number of tests the same as the number of people being tested, because some people are tested more than once.
We have also expressed concern in the past that the government’s published testing capacity may not reflect its real ability to conduct tests in practice.