Matt Hancock has said he has achieved his target of conducting 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of April.
The health secretary announced there were 122,347 COVID-19 tests on Thursday. However, the government was immediately accused of “massaging” the statistics.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference on Friday, Hancock said: “I knew 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 we have met our goal. The number of tests yesterday, the last day of April, was 122,347.”
Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice
Hancock said the “unprecedented expansion” was not “my achievement but a national achievement”.
He said the UK’s bigger testing capacity “will help every single person in this country”.
“Testing is crucial to suppressing the virus” and will “help us unlock the lockdown,” Hancock added.
Responding to the announcement, Liberal Democrat acting leader Sir Ed Davey accused the government of “massaging the metrics”.
He said: “It's deeply regrettable but we're still miles off the large-scale testing programme that will be an essential part of any plan to ease out of lockdown through a test, trace and isolate approach.”
It follows a Health Service Journal report which claimed tests that are sent to people’s homes have been counted in the figures before the samples have been returned to a laboratory.
When questioned about this at Friday’s press conference, Hancock said “it’s not something I recognise”.
Prof John Newton, coordinator of the national testing effort, insisted “that’s the way they have always been counted”.
Of the 122,347 tests counted by the government, 27,497 were home kit deliveries, Prof Newton said.
He added a further 12,872 tests were delivered through the government’s satellite process, where test kits are delivered to centres such as hospitals and NHS sites.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “We’ve wanted to see more testing. But a big figure is not a strategy.”
Hancock set the 100,000 target on 2 April, a day when 11,764 were carried out. On 23 April, 28,532 tests had been conducted.
The government was able to increase its testing capacity through measures such as setting up 96 mobile sites, 49 drive-through sites and sending the home testing kits.
On Tuesday, it also expanded the criteria for people who can be tested for coronavirus.
All those with coronavirus symptoms aged over 65 and members of their households, as well as workers who have to leave home and members of their households, became eligible for testing from Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Hancock announced the number of people in the UK who have died after being infected with coronavirus has risen by 739 to 27,510.
There are also 177,451 confirmed cases, a rise of 6,201 from Thursday.