A senior Tory minister has admitted that the government is likely to miss its own target for 100,000 daily tests for coronavirus by the end of April.

Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, said the government "probably won't" hit the ambitious goal set by Matt Hancock in time, as ministers scramble to manage expectations.

Mr Hancock announced the target as the government came under sustained pressure over lack of testing for NHS staff and other key workers, many of whom were concerned about self isolating needlessly or passing on the virus unknowingly.

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Testing capacity has been rapidly scaled up, with eligibility expanded in recent days to include people over 65 who are showing Covid-19 symptoms and asymptomatic residents and staff in care homes.

But Mr Buckland admitted that only 52,000 people had been tested yesterday - just over half the target - and the looming target was likely to be missed.

He told Sky News: "We'll have the results I think tomorrow. Even if we don't hit it, and it's probable that we won't, we will in the next few days hit that target.

"We're up to 52,000 people being tested, the capacity is rising, I think it was right to set an ambitious target.

"And you know, sometimes even if you don't hit the target on the due date the direction of travel is the most important thing.

"I believe we're going to get there and then move beyond it, because we need more."

It comes as the body which represents hospital trusts said the fixation on 100,000 daily tests figure was a "red herring", which was distracting from the overall strategy.

NHS Providers warned that the English health and care system “started from a poor position” and consistently “struggled” to demonstrate a “clear, effective and well communicated strategy”, with a lack of clarity on who would be tested, when, how, and with what frequency.

The report said members felt “on the end of a series of frequent tactical announcements”, with “no visibility on any long-term strategy”.

It said: “They are being expected, at the drop of a hat, to accommodate these changes with no advance notice or planning, despite the fact that many of the changes have significant operational impact.”

The report added: “The recent public focus on whether 100,000 tests will be performed on April 30 is a red herring.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is expected to appear at his first daily Downing Street press conference since recovering from coronavirus amid mounting pressure on ministers to reveal the path out of the lockdown.

However Downing Street has played down any hopes of easing restrictions this week, pointing to the three weekly review deadline on 7 May as a more likely time for clarity.

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