The Government claims to have met Boris Johnson's target of being able to process 500,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of October.
In data published today, Public Health England reports that UK officials have the capacity to carry out 519,770 swab tests every day for Covid-19.
But over the past week, the average number of tests processed has been just 314,553, with a peak of 374,813 on Thursday, October 29.
It casts doubts about whether the Government has actually achieved the target it set, given that it has never actually done close to 500,000 tests in a day.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was ridiculed in the summer for fudging his first target of doing 100,000 a day by the start of May, when it emerged that tens of thousands of home testing kits were mailed out on the last day so they could be counted. Data now shows that that target wasn't actually hit until May 21.
And based on how long it took for tests to increase by an average 100,000 per day to their current level, it could take two months or more for 500,000 to become a functional achievement rather than a number on a screen.
In data published today, Public Health England reports that UK officials have the capacity to carry out 519,770 swab tests every day for Covid-19. But over the past week, the average number of tests processed has been just 314,553
The Prime Minister described meeting the target as 'considerable' today in the Commons
The 500,000 tests target was set in September, when capacity was at around 250,000.
Capability in the system increased steadily throughout the month but then suspiciously shot up in October.
Between October 1 and October 25, capacity increased by 68,000 – an average of 3,000 extra tests per day.
But then between October 25 and October 31, the final week before the target was due, it soared by 142,000 – 27,000 more per day.
Britain today recorded its lowest number of daily coronavirus cases in a fortnight, on the same day Boris Johnson desperately tried to convince Tory MPs to back a draconian second lockdown.
Department of Health figures show another 18,950 people tested positive for the disease — down 9.3 per cent in a week and the lowest since Monday, October 19 (18,804).
The UK also saw another 136 coronavirus deaths — a rise of 33.3 per cent on the 102 lab-confirmed fatalities posted last week.
Top scientists said the infection data could be evidence of England's three-tier lockdown system starting to take effect, by cutting down the speed of growth in the North. It raises questions about whether Number 10 jumped the gun with a second national shutdown.
It comes as the Prime Minister insisted cases were now surging so high there was 'no alternative' to the month-long blanket restrictions across England. He warned that otherwise the death toll could be double that in the previous peak.
In a statement to the Commons, he tried to soothe a growing mutiny by reassuring the House that the measures will legally end on December 2 - and if they need to be extended there will be another vote.
But he was roasted by Keir Starmer for wasting weeks refusing to lock down England while the death toll spiralled - before performing