Health Secretary Matt Hancock claims
that the average distance travelled by people in England to a test centre is 5.8 miles.
Last week, he used a slightly different
figure – 6.4 miles.
So, is this right? The problem is the government is not releasing the data on journey times – despite us asking for it repeatedly.
The Department of Health says it plans to “at some point in the future”. This
makes it very difficult to scrutinise the claims.
It has supplied a limited amount of
information about the methodology, however.
The average distance refers to “as the
crow flies”, so it doesn’t take into account that most roads are not a straight
line between someone’s house and the testing site. This means the average
distance actually travelled will be higher.
For example, if someone was to drive
between the BBC London offices and the Wembley testing site, the exact distance
between the two is 5.5 miles. However, once we take into account roads, this
increases to around 8 miles.
Additionally, Hancock previously said
90% of people travel less than 22 miles, meaning 10% travelled further.
In the latest week, 199,000 tests were
processed from regional testing facilities, meaning as many as 20,000 people
travelled over 22 miles.
We also don’t know how many people asked
for a testing slot but chose not to travel because the site they were offered
was too far away.