Coronavirus: No 10 ‘had not noticed’ daily testing figure has disappeared for several days in a row

Statistic vanishes from daily charts – after widespread criticism that numbers tested is tens of thousands below ‘capacity’ available

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 27 May 2020 13:57
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All you need to know from the latest UK coronavirus briefing

No 10 says it cannot explain why the daily announcement of the number of people being tested for coronavirus has been mysteriously dropped.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it was “not something I have noticed” – despite the Department of Health and Social Care failing to provide the statistic for four days.

It comes after widespread criticism that the number of people tested is typically tens of thousands fewer than the “capacity” available and way below the 100,000 daily benchmark.

However, the spokesman insisted the government was on track to hit the prime minister’s promise of a testing capacity of 200,000 by this weekend – despite the latest figure being only 154,120.

Asked if the target would be hit, he replied: “Yes, that’s right. It’s in tandem with commitment to have test-and-trace scheme in place on Monday.”

As the Dominic Cummings controversy continues to rage, Downing Street revealed that neither the chief medical officer nor the chief scientific adviser had endorsed his conduct, widely seen as multiple breaches of the lockdown rules.

“That is not a question I’ve asked, or would expect to ask, of any civil servant,” the spokesman told journalists.

Downing Street was also forced to deny that Mr Johnson prematurely outlined plans to reopen schools on Sunday, purely to distract from the crisis over his chief aide.

Earlier, the schools minister provoked surprise when he told MPs that no decision would be taken until Thursday – leaving teachers and parents only a few days to prepare.

“No, absolutely not,” the spokesman said, arguing No 10 had been repeatedly pressed to provide more details about school reopening plans, ahead of the planned return next Monday.

“The prime minister said on Sunday night the final decision will be taken as part of the formal review into lockdown measures, which the law requires us to undertake by Thursday.

“That formal review will happen tomorrow and we are hopeful, without prejudging it, that we will be able to proceed with the reopening schools on 1 June.”

He rejected criticism that neither Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, nor Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, had been put forward to answer questions about Mr Cummings’ lockdown-flouting.

Both were known to be in Downing Street on Monday, meeting the prime minister, but have not faced questions at the daily briefing.

The spokesman said he expected both to appear at the briefing “in the next few days”, but did not say when.

He also said he was unaware of anyone fined in similar circumstances to Mr Cummings – after arguing childcare needs made their journey necessary – after the government ruled out reviewing any such penalties.

However, the figures were not broken down, so he was “not able to give a categorical answer on that”.

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