Wednesday 16 September 2020 12:36 pm

Coronavirus: Justice secretary insists resolving system delays remains top priority

Justice secretary Robert Buckland today insisted the government will prioritise ramping up its testing efficiency, in a move to quell growing concerns over significant system delays.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the cabinet minister said the government would “do whatever it takes to make sure we have that capacity”.

There are currently around 400 testing centres, though the government is drawing up plans to increase this figure to 500 in the next few weeks.

Buckland said alongside prioritising tests for NHS and social care frontline workers, schools should be high up on the list due to its “knock-on effect to the working lives of parents and carers”.

Read more: Coronavirus: Contact-tracing app to launch on 24 September

Health secretary Matt Hancock is expected to announce who will be prioritised for tests soon.

But the government faces a race against time as it comes under increasing pressure to deliver on their earlier promises.

“I think we have two or three weeks to fix these things,” Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said on the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

“If we don’t, the worry is we’ll never gain control as we head into autumn and winter.”

Greater Manchester currently suffers from the highest infection rate in the country.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth today wrote in a tweet: “They promised us a world beating system but ministerial incompetence is forcing them to restrict testing.

“When testing breaks down, tracing breaks down and the virus spreads. It’s now urgent ministers fix testing.”

The latest government figures this week showed around 220,000 tests are processed daily.

And in terms of UK laboratory daily testing capacity, the government said this figure stood at more than 370,000.

Without including antibody tests and virus spread testing, testing capacity approximately stands at 245,000 a day.

The current target for testing capacity is to reach 500,000 a day by the end of October.