A minister has admitted it is "probable" that the government will fail to meet its target of 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of this month.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland made the admission in an interview on Sky News.
However, he did say the milestone would be hit in the "next few days".
Mr Buckland told Kay [email protected]: "We'll have the results, I think, tomorrow. Even if we don't hit it, and it's probable that we won't, we will in the next few days hit that target.
"We're up to 52,000 people being tested, the capacity is rising.
"I think it was right to set an ambitious target.
"Sometimes even if you don't hit the target on the due date, the direction of travel is the most important thing."
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The latest available figures, for Tuesday, show that capacity reached 73,400 coronavirus tests, with 52,429 of those tests being used.
Downing Street said earlier this week that it would not initially be clear if the testing target has been met.
The Prime Minister's spokesman added: "It's going to take a little while longer for that to be clear."
He said it will be "difficult" to know on Friday, adding: "For example, home testing kits can take up to 72 hours to get the results for and therefore show up in the numbers."
NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and NHS trusts in England, has said the target is a "red herring" which distracts from shortcomings in the long-term COVID-19 strategy.
In a report, the organisation said the English health and care system "started from a poor position" and struggled to demonstrate a "clear, effective and well-communicated strategy" – with a lack of clarity on who would be tested, when, how, and with what frequency.
"A vast amount still remains to be done to reach a testing regime that can be described as fit for purpose," the report warned.
With 800,000 people working in the health service, chief executive Chris Hopson said as many as 120,000 tests would be needed daily for NHS workers once the UK comes out of lockdown – allowing them all to be tested once a week.
Responding to the report, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said testing was "absolutely critical" and capacity had more than doubled within weeks.
He added: "Our aim as we tackle this virus is to make it easy, fast and simple for any essential worker who needs a test to get a test.
"In addition to setting up a nationwide network of drive in testing sites, we have introduced home testing kit delivery, deployed mobile testing units operated by the Armed Forces, and built three new 'mega labs' to analyse test samples."
Mr Buckland's admission comes as Boris Johnson prepares to host his first coronavirus news conRead More – Source