Matt Hancock, the British Secretary of Health, proudly announced on Friday that the country had reached an ambitious target for coronavirus testing that it had set for itself earlier this month.
On April 2, after weeks of criticism that the UK was lagging its European counterparts like Germany on testing, Hancock said it “set the goal of 100,000 tests a day, by the end of this month. This is the goal and I am determined that we will get there. “
Hancock said on the same podium on Friday that the UK had beaten the goal by more than 22,000.
Hancock said optimistically, “I knew it was a bold goal, but we needed a bold goal.”
Ambiguous numbers: Critics might point out that the lens wasn’t the only thing out of Hancock’s mouth that could be called daring. In the numbers counted, thousands of tests were sent to the public, but not necessarily returned.
Jonathon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary of the opposition Labor Party, has already released a statement accusing the government of playing with the numbers. “The increase in testing is an important step. But many would have expected the 100,000 promises to be fulfilled by performing tests, and not just because 39,000 kits had been mailed,” he said. he declares.
The question of testing did not need to become so political.
When the UK caved in to reverse its March 12 decisions to drop community mass testing on April 2, it did not need to set a specific target or deadline. Indeed, it seems very unlikely that scientific or medical advice would have produced a round figure like 100,000 or a clear date like the end of a month. These promises were based on political choices made by the government and it is entirely reasonable for critics to expect the target to be achieved.
However, it is also reasonable for critics to point out that the date and number of tests performed are entirely arbitrary and that what really matters is a consistent goal for these tests, such as the deployment of a contact tracing program.
So while the British government can be proud of its extraordinary expansion of testing in such a short period of time – and no one can deny that more testing is a positive thing – it is reasonable for critics to step back and just hold their own. promise. little uplifting.