JUST half of all available coronavirus tests yesterday were used – as the Government promised they would reach 100,000 a day by the end of the month.
Shocking stats out today revealed that only 19,300 tests were done in the run up to 9am yesterday, but there was capacity for 39,250.
That means less than half of the spots were unfilled, where NHS staff, their families, care home staff, police or prison staff could have been tested.
27 drive-through sites are now open across the country, with the aim for 50 by the end of the month.
No10 refused to say why not enough people were getting the tests, even though they had the room for them.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Ministers have been very clear any spare capacity should be used to test NHS staff and their families.
“As a result of increased capacity, other critical care workers can also now get tests so they can continue their vital work on frontline.
“You can see the efforts being made to try and get more people to undergo these tests.
“The Care Quality Commission has reached out to almost 25000 care settings, we want the capacity to be used.”
It was claimed last week that nurses and doctors were having to drive hours to testing centres only to be told to come back another time, or they did not have the correct appointment.
Other reports suggested people were making the appointments and not turning up.”
The Government insisted they were “absolutely standing by” the aims to tests 100,000 a day by the end of the month.
And it backed Matt Hancock after reports that ministers in Cabinet were becoming frustrated by his approach.
Yesterday MPs lashed ministers for the Covid testing shambles and warned the UK looks set to miss its key target of 100,000 tests in just ten days’ time.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Testing and contact tracing is a vital tool in our response to this virus.
“Ministers have promised us 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month and it’s crucial they now outline a national testing strategy.”
Medics say they are having to travel hours to get to a drive-thru testing facility, and are turned away if they don’t have an appointment.
Last night Downing Street suggested bus drivers could be among the next in line for testing.
It said that it wanted “much broader groups of key workers” to be eligible for checks.
Last week police, fire and prison staff were told they could sign up and get tested.
Workers in care homes are also getting signed up too, with bosses writing to them all to offer them slots.
Of the fall in Covid testing capacity over the weekend, the PM’s spokesman said: “There has been a small dip while commercial partners make adjustments to their processes.
“The demand from the NHS was not as expected, which is why we’re rolling out eligibility criteria for others now. Where we have the capacity we want to use it.
“We do think we’re on course to meet the target of 100,000 tests.
“It’s for the NHS to refer people to go for testing.”
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It is essential that GPs, and all other health and social care professionals, who are working on the frontline have access to testing.”
He added: “We have welcomed the Government’s pledge of more testing in recent weeks, including in care homes, but we need to see testing increased in the wider community.
“We understand increasing testing at such pace to reach 100,000 a day by the end of the month will be an incredible logistical challenge, but it will be necessary in helping us to come out of this crisis.”
Meanwhile Government insiders and some members of the Cabinet started turning on Health Secretary Matt Hancock, as the target looked less and less likely to be readed.
One scathing minister told HOAR last week: “Hancock isn’t going to meet his target – we need Hancock to stop gambling with his pledges.”
Wales yesterday announced it was abandoning its own daily target of 5,000 tests a day of key workers as it couldn’t meet it.
An insider close to Downing Street told the Daily Telegraph that the Health Secretary’s target was “arbitary”.
They said: “The problem is with this arbitrary target. There is a faint irrationality behind it, just because there was a clamour for mass testing.
“Hancock’s 100,000 target was a response to a criticism in the media and he decided to crank out tests regardless.
“He’s not had a good crisis. The Prime Minister will say he has confidence in him but it doesn’t feel like that.
But an ally of Mr Hancock said: “Anyone who thinks Matt just walked into a No10 press conference and came out with his own figure doesn’t have a clue how Government works.
“It was a Government target, arrived at by looking at what capacity there was in the NHS and the private sector and then setting an ambitious goal. The aim at the time was to get key workers who were self-isolating back to work if they did not have the virus.”
A No10 spokesman said: “We agreed the figure before it was announced and it remains a Government target.”