The British government is under fire for failing to keep its promise to increase the number of tests performed for COVID-19.
The U.K. has restricted testing to hospitalized patients, leaving many people with milder symptoms unsure whether they have had the new coronavirus. Many scientists have urged wider testing to allow medics who are negative to remain at work, and to better understand how the virus spreads.
That has happened in Germany, which has the capacity to do 500,000 tests a week.
The U.K. initially performed about 5,000 tests a day, but the government promised to increase that number to 10,000 by the end of last week. The target has not been met, with just over 8,000 tests performed Monday, the last day for which figures are available.
Officials have blamed a shortage of the chemicals needed to perform the tests.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said Wednesday that the number of tests should hit 15,000 a day “within a couple of days” and rise to 25,000 a day by mid-April. He conceded, “We do need to go further and we need to do that faster.”
He told ITV that “it isn’t easy to procure the tests in a global pandemic because there is a great deal of demand.”