Coronavirus testing: Government claims on take a look at centres and worldwide comparisons fact-checked

Covid-19 testing centre Image copyright Getty Images

The authorities is going through criticism over its “world-beating” coronavirus testing system after folks reported struggles to get checks, together with being supplied slots at testing centres a good distance away.

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

We’ve checked out 5 of their claims.

Claim 1. Matt Hancock: “The average distance travelled to a test site is now just 5.8 miles”

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

The downside is, we have no method of telling whether or not that is the case, as the federal government shouldn’t be releasing its knowledge on distances to Covid-19 take a look at centres.

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

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

Image copyright Getty Images

It says the common distance refers to “as the crow flies”, so this does not take note of that the majority roads should not in a straight line between somebody’s home and the testing website. This means the common distance travelled will probably be increased.

For instance, if somebody was to drive between the BBC places of work in central London and the Wembley testing facility, the precise distance between the 2 is 5.5 miles (8.9km). However, when you take note of the precise roads, this will increase to about eight miles.

Last week, Mr Hancock additionally mentioned “90% of people travel less than 22 miles”. Again, we have not seen the information on this. It would imply, although, that 10% travelled additional.

In the newest week, 199,000 checks had been processed from regional testing amenities (this does not embrace home checks or cellular checks), that means as many as 20,000 folks in England travelled over 22 miles.

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

Claim 2. Boris Johnson: “We’ve conducted more tests than any other European country”

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

This complete is increased than another nation in Europe, in line with knowledge collected by European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), an EU company.

Their figures present that, by this date:

  • Germany processed 12.3m checks
  • France processed 7.4m checks

Comparisons between international locations is not going to at all times be good, as a result of some international locations report much less typically and there is perhaps some variations in methodology.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image 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.

Looking at this measure permits for variations in inhabitants dimension between international locations.

Mr Johnson is true – in line with ECDC knowledge on checks per 1,000 folks for the week ending 30 August:

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

The knowledge additionally exhibits that 4 European international locations rank increased than the UK, together with Denmark on 42 checks per 1,000.

Claim 3. Priti Patel: “The government has been consistently increasing testing capacity, but also laboratory capacity”

The home secretary is right that authorities knowledge exhibits that each testing capability and laboratory capability have elevated significantly for the reason that starting of the pandemic.

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

For instance, on 10 September, labs within the UK would have been in a position to course of 244,000 antigen checks, which point out if you happen to at the moment have the virus, however processed 204,000. This means, in concept, labs may have processed outcomes for 40,000 extra checks.

Last 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 sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, it’s our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point,” she mentioned.

Data on backlogs in labs shouldn’t be publicly accessible, however on Tuesday Health Secretary Matt Hancock mentioned the backlog was “less than a day’s capacity”. This means it may very well be anyplace as much as 244,000.

He added that this has been pushed by a surge in demand as youngsters return to highschool and adults return to work.

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

Claim 4. Boris Johnson: “89% of those who have in-person tests get them [results] the next day.”

The newest take a look at return instances in England we have now, are for the week to 2 September – the determine is definitely for folks getting outcomes inside 24 hours reasonably than the following day.

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

But this excludes the time it takes to get the take a look at to the lab, and it is for pillar 1 checks, that are for folks with a medical want and are processed in Public Health England labs and NHS hospitals.

For pillar 2 checks, those for the broader inhabitants and run by non-public labs, the median turnaround time from taking a take a look at at a regional take a look at website to getting the outcome was 23 hours, which suggests half of checks took longer than that, and half took much less time.

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

Satellite checks are ones that are processed by non-public labs and despatched to locations like care properties or hospitals. The authorities says checks in these settings are sometimes carried out over a number of days. This signifies that somebody would possibly take a take a look at just a few days earlier than it’s collected.

Claim 5. Priti Patel: “There is a lot more mobile testing that’s taking place, particularly in lockdown areas, but also home testing kits being sent to people”

Outside everlasting drive-through testing websites, folks may also get testing kits delivered to their home or go to cellular testing websites, which move round in line with demand.

Ms Patel is right that there was a rise in each of those, doubling in quantity for the reason that finish of May.

It is troublesome to substantiate whether or not extra checks are going down in lockdown areas as a result of – once more – the federal government doesn’t launch this knowledge by native authority. We additionally do not understand how many individuals have requested for checks 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 – checks had been carried out within the prime 10 most affected areas of the nation. That equates to about 7.5% of all checks on a mean day.

These 10 areas make up 5% of the inhabitants, that means they obtained proportionally extra checks.

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