Covid: UK does not have enough testing capacity, Boris Johnson admits

PM insists government is working towards goal of 500,000 tests a day by end of October

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 16 September 2020 16:30
UK does not have enough testing capacity, Boris Johnson admits

Boris Johnson has admitted the UK does not currently have enough testing capacity to meet the demands of the pandemic, but insisted the government was working towards a goal of 500,000 a day by the end of October.

As ministers face escalating pressure over the testing system, the prime minister told MPs demand had “massively accelerated” from the public in the last two weeks amid rising cases of Covid-19.

Asked directly whether the country currently had enough testing capacity, Mr Johnson told the Commons liaison committee: “The short answer is no we don’t.

“We don’t have enough testing capacity now because in an ideal world I would like to test absolutely everybody that wants a test immediately.”

The prime minister insisted testing capacity had gone up 10 per cent over the last two weeks, adding four new laboratories were being built across the country and 300 people were being recruited.

Reiterating the government’s target to increase capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the close of October, he added: “Everything is being done that we possibly can to increase testing capacity,” he said.

On demands facing the service, the prime minister also said: "Many people are seeking to get a test in the hope that they can thereby be released to get on with their lives in the normal way - people who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive, for instance, they are seeking to get a test to ensure that they are OK to go to work."

"That is perfectly reasonable, and I understand why people are doing that, but the advice and the guidance is that people should seek a test not in those circumstances but when they have symptoms."

During the committee session on Wednesday, Mr Johnson added that he wanted to avoid a second national lockdown to curb the spread of the virus, as it would have “disastrous” financial consequences for the UK.

"I don't want a second national lockdown - I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it,” he said.

"And can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous, but we have to make sure that we defeat the disease by the means that we have set out.

"So when I see people arguing against the rule of six or saying that the government is coming in too hard on individual liberties and so on - I totally understand that and I sympathise with that, but we must, must defeat this disease."

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