Downing Street has said the number of tests being carried out for coronavirus is running at 18,000 a day. That is well short of the target of 100,000 tests a day set by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, for the end of the month, and short of the 25,000-a-day target that Boris Johnson said he hoped to achieve within a month on 18 March. But the prime minister’s spokesman refused to accept that the government was behind schedule. He said that there were now 23 drive-through sites where people could be tested. “New capacity is coming on-stream all the time,” he said.
The cabinet may not be involved in the decision on extending the lockdown, the prime minister’s spokesman revealed. Although it normally meets on a Tuesday, no meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow. With Boris Johnson recovering at Chequers after his spell in intensive care, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary and first secretary of state, is deputising in his absence. The government has to take a decision about extending the lockdown by Thursday, which is when the regulations covering England need to be reviewed. The spokesman did not say exactly how or when this would be taken, but he said the main work coordinating the government’s response to coronavirus was being taken by the morning No 10 meeting, which is chaired by Raab, and by the four coronavirus ministerial groups. The spokesman said that any decision to extend the lockdown would have to be reviewed again after three weeks. It is thought inevitable that the lockdown will be extended, and the spokesman told journalists that when the decision is formally announced, the government would “set out the reasoning behind the decision as soon as it is taken”.