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All essential workers can book a free coronavirus test online from Friday, Matt Hancock has said.
And employers can go online and ask for a test for critical staff from today, the health secretary also announced, as he pledged to get “Britain back on her feet”.
The news means that millions of workers can now apply for a test online at gov.uk/coronavirus.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, he said: “From today, employers of essential workers will be able to go on gov.uk to get a test for any of their staff.
“From tomorrow, any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment on gov.uk themselves, directly.
“This all applies for people in essential workers’ households too who need a test.
“It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet.”
Critical workers or anyone from their household can go to gov.uk/coronavirus to book an appointment.
The testing “routes” include:
- NHS hospitals
- Regional test centres
- Satellite centres
- Home test kits
- Mobile testing units
Health chiefs announced on Thursday that the number of people who have died in UK hospitals after contracting coronavirus had risen by 616, bringing the total to 18,738.
But ministers said that the UK was this week reaching the peak of the outbreak.
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, who appeared alongside Hancock, said he expected the plateauing of the death figures to “continue for another couple of weeks, and we will then see a faster decline thereafter”.
Hancock also said capacity for carrying out tests had significantly increased, with the government now able to carry out more than 50,000 tests a day.
The health secretary has promised to ensure 100,000 tests will be carried out every day by the end of April.
The government puts the huge number of unused tests down to the fact some of the testing sites are inaccessible to people, something it says it is working on by setting up facilities like drive-through testing centres.
Professor John Newton, who is the government’s Covid-19 testing co-ordinator, said the government was “on track” to reach the target.
He added there would be 48 “pop-up facilities” which could tour the country, testing people in different settings such as care homes.