Downing Street has quietly removed 1.3m coronavirus tests from its data because of double counting.
The news raises questions about the accuracy of the government’s testing capabilities.
In their daily coronavirus update on Wednesday, the government announced it had lowered the figure for “tests made available” by about 10% and discontinued the metric.
An update on the page read: “An adjustment of -1,308,071 has been made to the historic data for the ‘tests made available’ metric. The adjustments have been made as a result of more accurate data collection and reporting processes recently being adopted within pillar 2.”
Fewer in-person pillar 2 tests had been carried out than originally reported and were known about by the The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) from July the 6th but weren’t removed from data until August 12th.
It said there had been “a double-counting of test kits that had been dispatched”, “which had not been removed from the lab’s processed data”.
Justin Madders, the shadow health minister, said the data on testing had been “shambolic” for months.
“To now retrospectively adjust the testing figures by 1.3m overnight – without explanation – is the latest in a long line of chaotic failings by the government on testing,” he said.
“How can we be confident that testing and tracing is working properly when basic data on the number of tests is obviously so flawed? Ministers need to get a grip of this as a matter of urgency.”
The Liberal Democrat health, wellbeing and social care spokesperson, Munira Wilson, said: “With so many families torn apart by this pandemic, the government must recognise the fall in public trust in their handling of the crisis.
“To avoid questions of fiddling the numbers, they must be explicitly transparent in how they have changed the data and how they will rapidly build testing capacity.
“Ultimately, we need an immediate independent inquiry so lessons can be learned more systematically.”
A DHSC spokesperson said: “In July we became aware of an overcounting issue which we publicly and transparently acknowledged and have since sought to clarify these figures subsequently.
“This does not change the fact that we have rapidly built, from scratch, the largest diagnostic testing industry in British history, with over 13 million tests delivered, and capacity to test 300,000 every day.”
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