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The federal government is going through criticism over its “world-beating” coronavirus testing system after individuals reported struggles to get exams, together with being supplied slots at testing centres a great distance away.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and numerous cupboard members have been defending the scheme, and have claimed that testing capability is growing and that the typical journey to a take a look at centre is not that far.

We have checked out 5 of their claims.

Declare 1. Matt Hancock: “The common distance travelled to a take a look at web site is now simply 5.Eight miles”

The well being secretary made this declare within the Home of Commons – final week, he mentioned the typical distance was 6.Four miles.

The issue is, we have no method of telling whether or not that is the case, as the federal government is just not releasing its information on distances to Covid-19 take a look at centres.

We have requested the Division of Well being and Social Care (DHSC) for the figures repeatedly. It says it plans to launch them “quickly” however that is not a lot assist assessing Mr Hancock’s declare now.

The DHSC has although given us restricted details about its methodology.

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It says the typical distance refers to “because the crow flies”, so this does not bear in mind that almost all roads usually are not in a straight line between somebody’s home and the testing web site. This implies the typical distance travelled will probably be greater.

For instance, if somebody was to drive between the BBC workplaces in central London and the Wembley testing facility, the precise distance between the 2 is 5.5 miles (8.9km). Nevertheless, when you bear in mind the precise roads, this will increase to about eight miles.

Final week, Mr Hancock additionally mentioned “90% of individuals journey lower than 22 miles”. Once more, we’ve not seen the information on this. It will imply, although, that 10% travelled additional.

Within the newest week, 199,000 tests were processed from regional testing facilities (this does not embrace residence exams or cell exams), which means as many as 20,000 individuals in England travelled over 22 miles.

And the opposite huge factor we do not know is how many individuals try to fail to get a take a look at, or what number of are supplied one a great distance away and resolve to not take it.

Declare 2. Boris Johnson: “We have carried out extra exams than some other European nation”

As of 30 August, the UK had processed simply over 15m antigen exams, – those which let you know whether or not you presently have coronavirus.

This complete is greater than some other nation in Europe, based on information collected by European Centre for Illness Prevention and Management (ECDC), an EU company.

Their figures present that, by this date:

  • Germany processed 12.3m exams
  • France processed 7.4m exams

Comparisons between international locations won’t all the time be good, as a result of some international locations report much less typically and there could be some variations in methodology.

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Picture caption

A coronavirus testing centre in Cologne’s Rautenstrauch Joest museum

Boris Johnson has additionally claimed that the UK is testing extra per head of inhabitants than France, Germany and Spain.

Taking a look at this measure permits for variations in inhabitants dimension between international locations.

Mr Johnson is true – based on ECDC information on exams per 1,000 individuals for the week ending 30 August:

  • UK – 19 exams per 1,000
  • France – 13 exams per 1,000
  • Germany – 13 exams per 1,000
  • Spain – 12 exams per 1,000

The information additionally exhibits that 4 European international locations rank greater than the UK, together with Denmark on 42 exams per 1,000.

Declare 3. Priti Patel: “The federal government has been persistently growing testing capability, but additionally laboratory capability”

The house secretary is appropriate that authorities information exhibits that each testing capability and laboratory capability have elevated significantly because the starting of the pandemic.

Nevertheless, there was a sizeable hole between what number of exams labs are in a position to course of (“capability”) and the variety of exams really processed.

For instance, on 10 September, labs within the UK would have been in a position to course of 244,000 antigen exams, which point out if you happen to presently have the virus, however processed 204,000. This implies, in idea, labs might have processed outcomes for 40,000 extra exams.

Final week, Sarah-Jane Marsh, a director of the federal government’s test-and-trace programme in England, confirmed there was an issue with the labs, providing a “heartfelt apology” to those that could not get a take a look at.

“All of our testing websites have capability, which is why they do not look overcrowded, it is our laboratory processing that’s the essential pinch-point,” she mentioned.

Information on backlogs in labs is just not publicly out there, however on Tuesday Well being Secretary Matt Hancock mentioned the backlog was “lower than a day’s capability”. This implies it may very well be wherever as much as 244,000.

He added that this has been pushed by a surge in demand as kids return to high school and adults return to work.

We now have requested the federal government why – in a system with extra lab capability than precise exams carried out – there’s a backlog, however have had no response.

Declare 4. Boris Johnson: “89% of those that have in-person exams get them [results] the following day.”

The most recent take a look at return occasions in England we’ve got, are for the week to 2 September – the determine is definitely for individuals getting outcomes inside 24 hours relatively than the following day.

The determine Mr Johnson seems to be referring to is the proportion of take a look at outcomes revealed inside 24 hours of them being acquired by a laboratory – it was 89% within the week to 26 August, and 92% within the week to 2 September.

However this excludes the time it takes to get the take a look at to the lab, and it is for pillar 1 exams, that are for individuals with a scientific want and are processed in Public Well being England labs and NHS hospitals.

For pillar 2 exams, the ones for the wider population and run by private labs, the median turnaround time from taking a take a look at at a regional take a look at web site to getting the end result was 23 hours, which implies half of exams took longer than that, and half took much less time.

For cell testing items that determine was 20 hours, however for satellite tv for pc testing centres it was 83 hours.

Satellite tv for pc exams are ones that are processed by non-public labs and despatched to locations like care properties or hospitals. The federal government says exams in these settings are sometimes carried out over a number of days. Because of this somebody may take a take a look at a number of days earlier than it’s collected.

Declare 5. Priti Patel: “There may be much more cell testing that is going down, notably in lockdown areas, but additionally residence testing kits being despatched to individuals”

Exterior everlasting drive-through testing websites, individuals may also get testing kits delivered to their residence or go to cell testing websites, which transfer round based on demand.

Ms Patel is appropriate that there was a rise in each of those, doubling in quantity because the finish of Could.

It’s tough to verify whether or not extra exams are going down in lockdown areas as a result of – once more – the federal government doesn’t launch this information by native authority. We additionally do not know the way many individuals have requested for exams however haven’t been in a position to get them when they need them.

On 15 September, the well being secretary mentioned 9,278 Pillar 2 – or commercially run – exams had been carried out within the prime 10 most affected areas of the nation. That equates to about 7.5% of all exams on a mean day.

These 10 areas make up 5% of the inhabitants, which means they acquired proportionally extra exams.

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