Covid-19: Stats show UK testing rates are among worst in world
London - Britain is languishing towards the bottom of a coronavirus testing league table – as the daily number of tests is still just a fifth of the target for the end of the month.
There are nine days to go before the UK reaches the point at which ministers pledged to achieve 100 000 tests a day. But just 19 316 tests were carried out in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday.
Now a league table created by researchers based at the University of Oxford puts the UK alarmingly low for testing. Britain has achieved just 5.54 tests per 1 000 people, according to the figures compiled by the academic group Our World in Data.
Iceland, by comparison, has managed 124.47 tests per 1 000, based on the latest figures available.
Italy, which has started to reopen non-essential shops selling books, stationery and children’s clothes, has carried out more than 22 tests per 1 000. France has achieved more than seven tests per 1 000, as of April 13, and the US is on more than 11 per 1 000. The UK falls below countries including Switzerland, Norway and South Korea, which have been held up as examples of how to reduce deaths through testing.
The figures come after Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries appeared to deny that greater testing would save lives in a news briefing on Sunday.
Although she acknowledged the importance of investigating the link between more tests and a lower death rate, she said: "I think the actual mechanism between the two is still not clear."
Reacting to her comments, former World Health Organisation director, Professor Anthony Costello, tweeted: "I cannot believe what I am hearing at the press conference. Deputy CMO Jenny Harries still believes that testing policy in the UK has been correct.
"And she doesn’t understand links between tests and Covid death rates. Is this CMO policy? If so, they should resign."
Although outbreaks are further along in some countries, meaning they may have tested more people as a result, the UK Government has faced strong criticism for being slow to build up capacity.
Responding to the Our World in Data table, Dr Thomas House, reader in mathematical statistics at the University of Manchester, said: "I think everyone seeing this league table would want the UK to be higher up in it.
"It is clear that in the same way that we made social distancing work, we need to do better on testing. It is an absolutely key part of the strategy to tackle this virus."