Coronavirus testing: the PM fact-checked | World news

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At prime minister’s questions, Boris Johnson hailed the UK’s “world-beating” track and trace system after being questioned on reports some people are being asked to travel hundreds of miles to get tested.

Johnson made a number of claims in parliament, which the Guardian has fact-checked against the government’s own data.

Has testing capacity risen from 2,000 a day in March to now 320,000 a day?

Yes and no.

It is true to say that, in the first two weeks of March, the number of people being tested was averaging at around 2,000 tests per day.

It is also true to say that, according to the government’s daily dashboard, testing capacity (the number of tests, across all types of testing, capable of being performed by laboratories in the UK) stood at almost 370,000 as of Wednesday 2 September 2020.

However, the last available figure for the number of tests carried out (the government has counted tests rather than people tested for some time now) is much lower than the stated capacity – 175,687 tests were processed on Wednesday 2 September 2020.

The prime minister’s spokesperson wasn’t able to provide an explanation for the discrepancy.

17.6 million tests: is the UK testing more than any other country in Europe?

Boris Johnson claimed that the UK, which completed 17.6 million tests in total, is testing more than any country in Europe. He made a similar claim in June, which the fact-checking site FullFact was unable to verify, stating “there isn’t enough data on this to determine for sure where the UK places, and the UK’s data isn’t particularly comparable with other countries”.

According to a range of data put together by Our World in Data (a project from the University of Oxford and Global Change Data Lab), the UK is at the top of European countries when measuring Covid-19 tests per thousand people, behind Denmark and Luxembourg. But researchers say this is a poor indicator of how well a country is dealing with the virus – a country could be forced to ramp up testing because of a sharp increase in community transmission, whereas one that has effectively suppressed the virus wouldn’t need to do as much testing.

Some suggest a better measure is the share of positive cases, which is the number of confirmed cases divided by the number of tests. A country with a high positivity rate is not responding well to the pandemic as it’s only testing a small fraction of those with the virus, whereas a country with a positivity rate under 1% is managing better.

The UK currently stands at 0.8%, below Spain (9.4%) and France (4.6%).

Do most people get an in-person test result within 24 hours?

This is true, although only newly so. According to the government’s latest test and trace data summary, in England 53.2% people who got in-person tests received results within 24 hours between 20 August to 26 August 2020, up from 40.7% the previous week.

However, when combining all the different testing routes, which also includes people taking home tests and at satellite centres (set up in places like hospitals that have a particularly urgent or significant need) just 24.3% of tests were received within 24 hours compared with 20% in the previous week.

The average journey someone travels to get a test is under 10 miles

The Department of Health and Social Care hasn’t published data on the average miles someone travels to get an in-person test. However, some individuals have been told to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest available testing centre. It is not clear if Johnson is referring to just drive-in tests here or if walk-in tests are also included in the figure which would bring the average distance travelled down.

There has been a massive increase in the number of people who test

This is true. The data from the Department of Health and Social Care shows an increase in both the number of tests sent out and tests processed in the week from 20 August to 26 August 2020.

In that time frame, 1,170,658 tests were sent out across the UK within pillar 2 (community testing) and pillar 4 (prevalence studies) in the latest week. This has increased by 41% since the previous week. The data also shows 1,448,784 tests were processed, an increase of 21% from the previous week.

80% of contacts identified from NHS Test and Trace are told to self-isolate

This is somewhat true. The Department of Health and Social Care states that between 20 August and 26 August, 31,388 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who has tested positive. Of these, 69.4% were reached and asked to self-isolate, compared with 77.1% in the previous week.

But when considering only the contacts where communication details were provided, 80.0% of non-complex contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in that week.

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Coronavirus testing: the PM fact-checked | World news

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