Matt Hancock has agreed to £100 bet with LBC presenter Nick Ferrari that the UK will meet its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month – despite not even being halfway yet.
The charitable bet adds pressure onto the Health Secretary to fulfil the 100,000 tests per day he promised would be met by the ‘end of April’.
He insists the task is ‘on track’ despite scepticism from the outset. But statistics revealed this morning show that just 37,024 were carried out in Great Britain in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday, the latest for which figures are available.
Additionally, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove later confirmed to MPs in the House of Commons that the true number of tests carried out will not be known until Saturday – because of of the time it takes to turn around results of home tests that were launched online this week.
Home-testing kits for critical workers, which can be booked on an online portal, ran out this morning for the fifth day in a row in a criticised ‘first come, first served’ basis.
Some 10,000 tests were scooped up within hours after they were made available at 8am this morning, including 7,000 in the first hour.
Appearing on LBC Mr Hancock was asked by Mr Ferrari if he would agree to a wager.
The presenter said: ‘Are you prepared to have a £100 wager, and I will never be happier to write a cheque for £100, when you deliver that 100,000 tests on May the first and the money goes to NHS charities. Are you up for the bet, Mr Hancock?’
Mr Hancock tried to swerve, saying: I’ve got enough riding on this already, Nick.’
But eventually he agreed, insisting the money, if he won, went to the Hospices UK charity.
Matt Hancock has agreed to £100 bet with LBC presenter Nick Ferrari that the UK will meet its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month – despite not even being halfway yet. Pictured, the line shows how many people have been tested per day in the UK
22,000 of the 26,000 available drive-through testing site appointments had been booked by key workers within an hour of availability this morning, No 10 said. Pictured, a drive-in testing facility being operated by the armed forces at the Chessington World of Adventures today
Asked if it was possible to meet the target of 100,000 daily tests by the end of April, Mr Hancock said it was a ‘big task’.
He told Mr Ferrari: ‘The plan was always to have a big ramp-up at the end of April because I spent April putting in place the systems to take this from an individual lab-by-lab process hand-done to an essentially automated process with an automatic application online.
‘Since that went live at the end of last week we have seen a very rapid rise.
‘We’re still on track but it’s a big big task. There’s a lot of things that we need to get right so there’s no guarantees in this life but we still are on track.’
He spoke before Mr Gove made a statement on coronavirus in the Commons. Asked about the tests and when the results would be ready, he said: ‘There has been some confusion over capacity and tests administered.
‘The target is tests administered and the figure for the tests administered on Thursday, which is the day that we have set for the target, will be published on Saturday.’
The 100,000 tests per days covers the Government’s five pillars of testing, which includes patients in hospital, NHS and key workers and their household members.
But official statistics show capacity hasn’t even reached half way, with 37,000 conducted on Sunday. Figures for Monday will be released imminently.
More than 10million key workers and their households are now eligible for Covid-19 tests as officials race to expand capacity.
But as of 11.50am today home testing kits for England were listed as ‘unavailable’ on the gov.uk/coronavirus website.
Some 10,000 kits were put onto the system – double that of previous days – which were all taken within hours.
More than 7,000 were ordered in the first hour of availability from 8am, Downing Street said, and 22,000 of the 26,000 available drive-through testing site appointments had also been booked.
Yesterday 5,000 home kits ran out 65 minutes after booking slots reopened, which was an improvement on the two minutes when the scheme launched on Friday.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) council, said yesterday that the online booking system ‘offered no practical help’ to healthcare workers in a blow to the Government’s aim to improve accessibility.
He said the current testing capacity is ‘well, well short’ of the number of healthcare staff who are currently self-isolating.
‘Our estimate is that there are about 90,000 health and care staff self-isolating based upon the government figures of absence rates,’ he said.
‘If the government wants healthcare workers to have access to the test, it has to be in the context or providing adequate capacity, not a “first come first served” and closing within an hour.’
There are now 16 operational military-run mobile testing sites: Torquay, Hereford, Boston, Salisbury, Bishop Auckland, Barnet, Northampton, Grimsby, Skegness, Blackpool, Macclesfield, Ramsgate, Harwich, Barnsley, Grantham and Kendal.
The Government hopes to have 96 mobile testing facilities by the start of May.
Home testing kits for NHS and critical workers have run out today after 10,000 were made available at 8am this morning. Test site appointments have run out in Wales
Mr Hancock agreed a £100 bet with LBC host Nick Ferrari (pictured), promising to give the money to Hospice UK if the target is met by May 1
But Mr Hancock insists the task for 100,000 tests a day is ‘on track’ despite scepticism from the outset. He is pictured on LBC
Timeline of the virus testing website launch
- 6am: Government’s new coronavirus testing website launches
- 6.02am: Stock of 5,000 home kits are all ordered in just two minutes
- 10am: 15,000 drive-through slots are all booked as new registrations close
- 8am: More tests released on website
- 8.15am: All 5,000 home kits are taken
- 10am: No more drive-through tests available to book in England
- 8am: More tests are launched
- 10am: Home testing kits are again listed as ‘unavailable’
- 8am: Availability of home and drive-through tests goes live again
- 9.05am: Home tests no longer available
- 12pm: Only drive-through tests in England and Scotland are left
- 8am: 10,000 home tests are made available on the website
- 9am: More than 7,000 were ordered in the first hour of availability, Downing Street said
- By 8am 22,000 of the 26,000 available drive-through testing site appointments had also been booked, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said
It will not become clear if the Government has reached it’s 100,000 per day target until next week, according to officials.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said yesterday it will be ‘difficult to know’ if the coronavirus testing target had been on Friday due to a lag in getting results back.
‘For example, home testing kits can take up to 72 hours to get the results for, and therefore show up in the numbers’, the spokesperson said.
However, it is unclear why. Up until now, the daily test figure reported by the Department of Health and Social Care has been from 24 hours prior.
For example, on Monday it reported that 37,024 tests were ‘on 26 April’ – the day before.
Since the outbreak began, 719,910 tests have been carried out in total, around 200,000 of which were repeat tests.
Of 569,768 people who have been tested, 157,149 had a positive result as of 5pm on April 26 and 21,000 have died.
But the figure is thought to be more like 32,600 – 55 per cent higher than the daily Government statistics let on.
Weekly data released by the Office for National Statistics today showed that deaths outside of hospitals pushed England and Wales’s death toll to 22,351 for April 17, a significant rise on the 14,451 announced on that date by the Department of Health.
If the same increase – 54.6 per cent – were applied to the total death toll confirmed yesterday (21,092) it could mean the real number of victims is 32,608.
The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland, published last week, showed 1,616 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to April 19.
And the latest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, also published last week, showed 276 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Northern Ireland up to April 22.
Updated figures from the National Records of Scotland are due to be published tomorrow, and from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency on Friday.