Coronavirus: Matt Hancock smashes virus testing goal with 122,000 tested in a ...

The Health Secretary, who pledged 100,000 tests would take place daily by the end of April, said the huge accomplishment would help get Britain out of lockdown and "back on her feet". He said teams across the country toiled tirelessly to make sure the goal was met. And he added the dramatic increase was "crucial to suppress the virus" and will help the nation win the battle against the disease.

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Mr Hancock said: "I knew that it was an audacious goal but we needed an audacious goal because testing is so important for getting Britain back on her feet. I can announce that we have met our goal. The number of tests yesterday, on the last day of April, was 122,347.

"This unprecedented expansion in British testing capability is an incredible achievement - but it is not my achievement, it is a national achievement."

Across the country, 49 drive-through sites are open while 96 mobile units tour the nation.

Mr Hancock's total also includes home test kits, which were counted when they were dispatched.

He said the increase in capacity would "help every single person in this country".

The Health Secretary had faced criticism for setting such a tough target but he insisted it was the right choice to make.

He said: "Setting stretching, ambitious goals in a crisis has a galvanising effect on everybody involved. It is a mission.

Matt HancockHealth Secretary Matt Hancock (Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images)

"If we hadn't been so bold, if we'd chosen a safer, easier path, I just can't see how we would have built the capacity that we need."

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing, Mr Hancock revealed the next phase of his mission will be to recruit an army of experts to track and trace people who have come into contact with those who have tested positive for coronavirus.

It will help the Government in its plans to give back some freedoms to the public.

He said: "In recent weeks we've had to impinge on historic liberties to protect our NHS and our loved ones, and yet our goal must be freedom.

"Freedom from the virus, yes, and we will not lift measures until it is safe to do so.

"But also we care about the restoration of social freedom and economic freedom too - each citizen's right to do as they please. For now, we're working together to stay home, we're impinging on the freedom of all for the safety of all.

"With this next mission of test, track and trace, I'm seeking a solution that allows us - by each of us participating - to target the measures that are needed with much more precision and so to reassert, as much as is safely possible, the liberty of us all."

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Mr Hancock spoke as Public Health England revealed 739 more people had died from Covid-19.

It takes the total to 27,510 fatalities in hospitals, care homes and the wider community, up until 5pm on Thursday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to hold a Cabinet meeting next Thursday - the day the Government is legally obliged to review the lockdown measures.

He promised two days ago to set out a "road map" next week.

Some measures could be eased - but others tightened - depending on the evidence presented by scientists advising the Government. Mr Johnson is drawing up a plan on how to gradually reopen the economy in the coming weeks and months.

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