Those without symptoms should not be seeking tests, even if they have come into contact with a person who later tests positive for Covid, said the former TalkTalk chief executive.

“All of us can play a role in making sure that we only come forward for a test if we really need it. For us as ordinary folk in ordinary jobs, it is whether or not we have symptoms. If we have got a temperature, if we have got a new persistent cough, or we’ve got a sudden loss of taste and smell, those are the Covid symptoms,” she said.

The peer said testing capacity was rising by about 10pc per week, taking the total up from about 232,000 a day at the start of last week to more than 253,000 by the end of the week.

Her goal is to be able to carry out and process 500,000 a day by the end of October.

However, some of that extra capacity is going into processing tests more quickly, rather than into a greater volume.

Research into faster tests is also making progress, Baroness Harding said, with “the Holy Grail being a 15 minute turnaround test that you or I can self-administer”.

She said there were “green shoots” of progress on creating faster tests, and “we should be optimistic that over the course of the next few months, many of these new technologies will break through”.

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