New “walk-through” coronavirus testing centres will help in the battle against the pandemic, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has insisted after sustained opposition criticism of the government’s stance.
Hancock said that six new testing centres would be available in England offering appointments to people without cars.
Hancock said the number of mobile testing units will double to 236 by the end of July and that new “priority postboxes” for testing kits would be created.
He urged everyone with symptoms to get a free test.
Six new walk-in testing sites are offering appointments to people in England with the “capacity to test hundreds of people each day”, the Department of Health and Social Care stated.
Hancock said: “It has never been easier to get a free coronavirus test and our new walk-in centres are yet another way to get one.
“If you have symptoms, however mild, please get tested now to help stop the spread of the virus and protect the people around you.
“The biggest network of diagnostic testing in UK history is ready and able to offer a test to anyone, anywhere in the country.
“In England, NHS test and trace is there to help those testing positive to trace their recent contacts and advise those at risk to stay at home, ultimately saving lives.
“It is encouraging to see transmission of the virus is going down, but we all still have a part to play to limit this further.
“Getting tested as soon as you develop symptoms is an essential step to protect the most vulnerable and help us to safely ease lockdown measures.”
The Department said home test kits could be returned without booking a courier service.
The government said this would allow those choosing this testing option to post their testing kits at any of the 30,000 Royal Mail priority postboxes across the UK, which will all be marked by a regionalised NHS logo by 3 July.
It was also announced that some 30 mobile testing units are travelling the UK.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Mobile testing enables temporary testing sites to be set up quickly to serve communities on a rolling basis and target specific demand.
“This brings the total of mobile units to 147, currently staffed by military personnel in England, Scotland and Wales and by civilian staff in Northern Ireland.
“This number will further increase to 236 across the United Kingdom by the end of July.”
Labour has been strongly critical of the government’s performance regarding testing and tracing, insisting it has lagged behind other major industrialised nations.