May 11, 2020 / 6:04 PM / 15 days ago

UK needs to boost 'trustworthiness' of COVID-19 test target, regulator warns

LONDON (Reuters) - British health minister Matt Hancock needs to take steps to boost public confidence in his 100,000-a-day target for COVID-19 tests, the country’s statistics regulator said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A view of a COVID-19 testing station manned by British military personnel inside London's Hyde Park, Britain, May 8, 2020. REUTERS/ Alexander Smith

When Hancock said he had achieved this total on April 30, many observers were surprised to learn it included around 40,000 tests sent out by post that day, for which results had not been received.

“It should be clear whether the target is intended to reflect testing capacity, tests that have been administered, test results received, or the number of people tested,” the UK Statistics Authority’s chair, David Norgrove, told Hancock.

He said in a letter that the health ministry still needed to improve how it presented this data, which forms a regular part of daily government news conferences.

“There is limited detail about the nature and types of testing and it is hard to navigate to the best source of information,” Norgrove wrote.

“It would support trustworthiness for the testing data ... to be more straightforward to find, with detailed breakdowns and richer commentary.”

There was no immediate comment from the health ministry.

Figures on Monday showed a testing total of 100,490 for May 10, the first time it has exceeded 100,000 since April 30.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on May 6 that his ambition is to have 200,000 tests a day by the end of the month.

So far 1.4 million British people have been tested for COVID-19, of whom 223,060 have been found to be infected, according to the health ministry figures.

Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Stephen Addison

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