Downing Street also played down expectations that the data will show whether the Government has reached its target by Thursday. The spokesman said: “It’s going to take a little while longer for that to be clear”, adding that it will be “difficult” to know even on Friday if the target has been met and suggesting the public would need to wait until next week for the full picture. 

“Home testing kits can take up to 72 hours to get the results for and therefore show up in the numbers,” the spokesman said, adding: “It’s worth saying in advance, therefore, that it’s not going to be possible to tell on Thursday this week whether or not we have met the 100,000 target. It’s going to take a little longer.”

Last week, essential workers who are self-isolating and their households were able to apply for a Covid-19 test through the new Government website. Test booking slots or home testing kits become available from 8am each day. On Monday, 10,000 home testing kits were ordered within an hour and are no longer available for the day.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said NHS staff needed greater access to tests. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chairman of the BMA council, said the online booking system “offered no practical help” to medical staff.

“There is no point putting forward a proposal unless it’s matched with adequate capacity,” he told the Press Association. “What we found in the first two days was that, within an hour, the bookings had all been taken up and therefore offered no practical help for large numbers of healthcare staff who found the website had effectively closed to bookings.”

Dr Nagpaul said the BMA estimates that about 90,000 health and care staff are self-isolating.

Last month, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, committed to a target of carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of this month.

Mr Hancock announced a five-point strategy for reaching the target after the Government faced repeated criticism for being too slow on testing. At the time, critics accused the Government of buying time as testing numbers struggled to rise.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the Government was “working hard” to increase the availability of Covid-19 tests through its online service.

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