Opposition leaders yesterday demanded an explanation for the decline in coronavirus testing, after the government missed its 100,000-a-day target for the fourth day in a row.
Labour said that the news "does not inspire confidence" in plans to begin easing the UK lockdown, which are expected to be announced on Sunday. A total of 69,463 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 9am on Wednesday, according to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. The testing total was 84,806 up to 9am on Tuesday, 85,186 up to 9am on Monday and 76,496 up to 9am on Sunday.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "One hundred thousand completed tests a day was pledged. Instead testing has gone down for the fourth day in a row. Testing should be going up, not be on this downward trajectory. Ministers need to explain why they are failing to deliver the testing promised."
Boris Johnson marked his return to the Commons by setting a new ambition for increasing test capacity to 200,000 a day by the end of the month.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned why current capacity had not been fully utilised since the end of April.
"On April 30, the government claimed success in meeting its 100,000 tests-a-day target. Since then, as the Prime Minister knows, the number has fallen back," he said.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner added that the "consistent downward trend" was "really not good enough". Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed the UK is now a world leader in testing for Covid-19, though he conceded that capacity for checks had needed to be built up "almost from scratch" since the start of the outbreak.
Mr Hancock admitted that it would have been "wonderful" to have a diagnostics industry like Germany to tackle the coronavirus crisis, but insisted the UK has now caught up with the Germans in terms of testing.