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Matt Hancock has admitted his target of achieving 100,000 daily coronavirus tests in England by the end of April is now a “goal” not a promise.
Last night the health secretary announced a new strategy to increase the country’s testing capacity, following heavy criticism of the low level of testing compared to some other countries.
So far, a total of 163,194 people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus – roughly 0.2% of the population.
Asked if he could guarantee 100,000 tests a day will happen by the end of April, Hancock said: “Yes, it’s got to happen.”
Pressed on whether it would happen or not, the health secretary would only go so far as to say: “I’ve got a plan to get us there. I’ve set it as a goal.”
He conceded there is still a “huge amount of work to do” to get to that point.
In an interview with LBC this morning, Hancock refused to say he would resign his post if the goal was not met.
“It’s much more than about that, it’s about getting the country out of this situation we’re in,” he said.
Speaking during Thursday’s Downing Street press conference, Hancock said the testing target included antigen tests, which tell people whether they currently have coronavirus, as well as antibody tests to see whether people have previously had the infection.
But this morning he clarified he was “not assuming any” of the 100,000 tests would actually be of the antibody variety. “So far haven’t found one that works,” he told the BBC.
People who take an antibody test and are found to have already had the virus could be issued with immunity certificates - permitting them to return to work and normal life as they would likely no longer be able to contract the virus or pass it on.