Britain has hit its target of carrying out 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day, health minister Matt
Hancock said on Friday, stressing that the program was crucial to helping ease a national lockdown.
Hancock set the target of 100,000 tests by the end of April after being criticized for moving too slowly compared to other countries like Germany.
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Since then, the government has increased the number of drive-through testing sites and has sent out home tests to a wider number of eligible people.
At Friday's news conference, Hancock said 122,347 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 0800 GMT.
“This unprecedented expansion in British testing capability is an incredible achievement,” he said.
“Testing is crucial to suppress the virus ... It helps remove the worry. It helps keep people safe, and it will help us to unlock the lockdown.”
With Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying Britain had passed through the coronavirus peak, a mass testing program to gauge the spread of the virus through the population is seen as key to
any easing of the social distancing measures that have all but shut down the economy and forced millions to stay at home.
Johnson and his government have been criticized not only for not quickly stepping up testing, but also for moving slowly on bringing in the lockdown and for a lack of protective equipment
for health workers.
With 27,510 deaths, Britain is set to be one of the worst-hit countries in Europe and it is all but inevitable the government's response to the outbreak will be subject of an inquiry afterwards.
Opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer renewed his criticism of the prime minister in an interview with the Evening Standard newspaper, saying Johnson had been “slow, slow at every turn.”
He called for testing to be ramped up to a quarter of a million tests every 24 hours and for 50,000 contact-tracers to be deployed to keep the nation safe.
The number of tests carried out each day has increased rapidly in recent days, and has risen from levels of around 10,000 per day in early April.