A Nobel Prize-winning biologist has branded the Government's 100,000 coronavirus tests per day target a 'PR stunt' as it emerged that it was 'likely' to be hit on time.
Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of biomedical research centre the Francis Crick Institute, also tore into the strategy on Question Time last night and said it 'makes absolutely no sense'.
Sir Paul said lives had been put at risk because NHS frontline workers were treating patients without being tested as allies of Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed he is 'quite confident' he can meet his 100,000 daily tests target.
Sir Paul said: 'The 100,000 target is just a figure with a lot of noughts in it. It was a bit of a PR stunt, which has gone a bit wrong. Why 100,000? Where was the strategy? It just sounded good.
'The reality is... If we had had local testing connected to hospitals, we could have made hospitals a safe place. But what we had was the potential for care workers on the words, working with sick patients, who were carrying the disease and weren't being tested.
'They didn't make the decision we want to test everybody who is a frontline worker and wouldn't test anybody who had no symptoms. We know you can be infected but have no symptoms. This makes absolutely no sense. Testing was absolutely critical. It hasn't been handled properly'.
Figures published last night showed 81,611 tests were conducted on Wednesday, a major jump from 52,429 on Tuesday and 43,453 on Monday.
The significant jump gave renewed hope that Mr Hancock could possibly scrape past his self-imposed target.
But earlier yesterday Justice Secretary Robert Buckland had sounded less optimistic, admitting it was 'probable' that the target would be missed.
He defended Mr Hancock's ambitious target and insisted the figure would be hit in the coming days.
Appearing on Question Time, Sir Paul said lives had been put at risk because NHS frontline workers were treating patients without being tested
Chief executive Sir Paul Nurse pictured at the Francis Crick Institute in King's Cross
Sir Paul Nurse was born in Norfolk and raised in London, where he attended Harrow County Grammar School.
In 1970 he received a degree in biology at the University of Birmingham and a PhD in 1973 from the University of East Anglia.
He went on to spend several months in a laboratory in Bern, Switzerland, then moved on to the laboratory of Murdoch Mitchison at the University of Edinburgh for postdoctoral studies on the cell cycle.
In 1979 he set up his own laboratory at the University of Sussex then in 1984, he joined the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF, which became Cancer Research UK in 2002), leaving in 1988 to chair the Department of Microbiology at the University of Oxford.
Sir Paul’s contributions to cell biology and cancer research were recognised with a knighthood in 1999.
Sir Paul was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Leland Hartwell and Tim Hunt for their discoveries of protein molecules that control the division (duplication) of cells in the cell cycle.
In 2002 Sir Paul became Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK.
In 2003, Sir Paul became President of Rockefeller University in New York City where he continued to work on the cell cycle, cell form and genomics of fission yeast.
In 2010, he became the first Director and Chief Executive of the Francis Crick Institute in London and in addition for 5 years was President of the Royal Society.
When he was 57, Sir Paul discovered he had been raised by his grandmother, thinking she was his mother.
He wrote in a blog, 'I