Health Secretary Matt Hancock had pledged that there would be 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.
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Speaking this morning, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland at last conceded the Government had not delivered on the promise.
He said: “Even if we don’t hit it, and it’s probable we won’t, we will in the next few days.
“We are up to 52,000, capacity is rising, and it was right to set an ambitious target.
“The direction of travel is the most important thing, and I believe we will get there and then go past it, because we need more.
"I am frustrated of course but I am encouraged to see the rate of increase in the number of testing has gone up every day."
Earlier this month Mr Hancock had unveiled a five point plan to get to 100,000 tests a day by the end of April – and 250,000 after that.
- A vow to carry out 25,000 swab tests a day in NHS hospitals and PHE labs to test patients for Covid-19, by the end of April – up from 10k a day now
- Creation of new swab testing capacity with help of commercial partners including Amazon, Boots and universities in new labs and testing sites for NHS staff and their families
- 'Game-changing' antibody tests to tell if people have had coronavirus, and are immune to it. Finger-prick blood test takes as little as 20 minutes, and Government is working with nine companies to test whether they work. But could take up to 28 days to show best results
- Virus surveillance, using the antibody test to understand the rate of infection and how the virus is spreading across the UK. Key to helping us exit the crisis.
- Build the British diagnostic industry "at scale" – with the pharmaceutical industry, including major drugs firms Astra Zeneca and GSK
All NHS staff will be able to have a test by the end of the month, he promised.
The Health Secretary said he was working hard to get testing numbers up but that there are "no guarantees in life".
Mr Hancock has been dogged by criticism over failing to meet testing targets, and as of yesterday just 52,000 tests were carried out in the 24 hours to 9am.
He has blamed a lack of demand for the low testing numbers and has continually said the "capacity is there" for any key workers that need it.
Yesterday home-test kits ran out again in just 80 minutes after the Government expanded testing to 25million people.
The website ran out of home test kits at 9.20am Wednesday morning after everyone over-65 was told they can apply if they have symptoms.
Just 14,700 tests kits were made available at 8am, with all of them ordered by 9:30am.
Ministers had initially offered just 5,000 home test kits a day when the website was launched last Friday.