The announcement comes as the weekly statistics for the flagship Test and Trace service revealed that the proportion of close contacts of people who have tested positive for the disease fell again.

In the week ending July 1, 70.8 per cent were successfully reached and advised to self-isolate, compared to 74.2 per cent the previous week. Officials say this is because, with the easing of lockdown, people who test positive are tending to provide higher numbers of close contacts.

The figures show that the turnaround time for tests is improving, but confirmed that Boris Johnson’s target for all in-person tests to be turned around within 24 hours by the end of June had been missed.

Overall, 31,421 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England had their case transferred to the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing system during the first five weeks of its operation, the figures also showed.

Of this total, 23,796 people (76 per cent) were reached and asked to provide details of recent contacts, while 6,645 people (21 per cent) were not reached. A further 980 people (three per cent) could not be reached because their communication details had not been provided.

The figures cover the period May 28 to July 1. During that time, 144,501 people who had been identified as recent close contacts of people who had tested positive were reached and asked to self-isolate. This was 85 per cent out of a total of 169,863 identified close contacts.

The number of people identified as close contacts fell in the last week of the data, with officials saying this was due to fewer contacts being in care homes. The percentage of contacts reached has gone down from 74.2 per cent in the week ending June 24 to 70.8 per cent in the week ending July 1.

When combining the figures for all methods of community testing – home-test kits, regional test sites, mobile testing units and “satellite” test centres – a total of 54.9 per cent of people received their results within 24 hours in the week ending July 1, up from 41.3 per cent in the previous week.

Some 34.9 per cent of people waited between 24 and 48 hours (down from 44.6 per cent), 7.5 per cent waited between 48 and 72 hours (down from 10.6 per cent) and 1.8 per cent waited longer than 72 hours (down from 2.5 per cent).

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