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Can the UK trust its government? The looming 100k-tests-a-day deadline will show

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Can the UK trust its government? The looming 100k-tests-a-day deadline will show
As the virus-related death toll mounts, the UK is holding its breath for one particular deadline: 100,000 Covid-19 tests per day, promised by the health secretary to be performed by the end of April.

The problem with promising something is that ultimately you have to deliver. The British government may now have backed itself into a corner.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been battling to spin the toxic reaction to the country’s ineffective efforts to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

With the UK on track to have the highest death toll in Europe, it’s possible that he just couldn’t handle the shame anymore when, to change the narrative, he blurted out a vow which could now become a political noose around his neck.

On April 2, Hancock proclaimed: “I’m now setting the goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month. That is the goal and I’m determined we’ll get there.” That day of reckoning is almost here.

The facts look like we should brace for disappointment, as the most recent daily figures (released on April 28) show 43,563 tests were carried out. There are statements flying around that capacity is higher, somewhere around 73,000.

My bank account has the capacity to contain multi-millions but the actual balance is the only figure that matters. So let's dispense with the smoke and mirrors, we were promised 100,000 legitimate tests.

It's a tough ask to go into overdrive and increase testing by almost 50 percent in a matter of days, but Hancock is still bullish, even agreeing to a £100 charity bet during a radio interview. Notwithstanding the crassness of betting with over 22,000 dead bodies lying in morgues or freshly dug graves, Hancock has a lot more to lose than money.

His promise sounded like an on-the-hoof reaction to being called out for his failings. He went for a nice round number and the deadline was more like a laborer telling you when your new driveway would be finished: "end of the month, mate."

Nevertheless, he has staked the entire credibility of Boris Johnson's government on it. If they get there, then at least they can claw back some goodwill. But if they don't, can anything they say from then on be trusted?

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The figure of 100,000 has become a panacea to the entire country, as the deaths have mounted up. The general public is holding on in the belief that, by the end of April, we'll hit the golden 100,000 and this tailspin will be reversed.

The realpolitik is anarchy could be the result if we don't. Why should any future advice or guidelines be heeded? The British people have been given assurances for four weeks about a simple testing target – and if it’s not delivered, why should they comply with the lockdown? Why should they bother with face masks? Why should they not hit the streets and demand to be allowed to work again?

This could be be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Rioting and civil disorder are real possibilities.

When Hancock's vow was made four weeks ago, Germany was already doing 100,000 tests a day. That's why 2.5 percent of their population have been tested, with Italy matching that and Spain at 1.97 percent. Britain is at a lowly 0.84 percent.

So now, the country that once used to oversee an empire which the sun famously never set on, is relying on a promise to reach a testing rate that other European nations were comfortably at a month ago, to redeem its reputation.

There's also been behind-the-scenes gossip, that we won't even find out right away if the goal has been hit. A cynic would say that's because they know they won't make it but won't admit that officially, until they have reached 100,000, whenever that may be.

But that's confusing. We're already receiving published figures for the previous day on the government's website.

It just adds to the all-too-familiar scenario of any of the British government's Covid-19 initiatives resulting in disappointment. Every time we seemed to see a light at the end of the tunnel, it turned out to be an oncoming train.

Hancock played with fire by promising us 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. Now, it's time to put his cards on the table. If he fails, he won't just be burning his fingers – he'll torch the entire country’s trust in this government.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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