The government’s coronavirus testing website was overwhelmed as it opened to new bookings on Friday, with home testing kits running out in the first two minutes of the site going live.
Up to 10 million key workers and their households in England are now eligible for coronavirus tests if they have symptoms as the government races to hit its 100,000-a-day testing target by next Thursday.
Under the expansion, NHS and social care staff, police officers, teachers, social workers, undertakers, journalists and those who work in supermarkets and food production are among those now eligible.
People can register on the gov.uk website for an appointment at a drive-through centre or can request a home test kit, but it ran out almost immediately after opening to bookings at 6am.
The PM’s spokesman said: ‘Within two minutes of the portal opening this morning, 5,000 testing kits had been ordered.
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‘And that’s the available capacity for today.’
The spokesman said up to 18,000 home testing kits per day will be available by the end of next week.
Another 15,000 tests are anticipated to take place at the drive-through centres on Friday, the PM’s spokesman added.
Number 10 said the government is trusting that those applying for tests are key workers, with no eligibility checks in place for online bookings.
The official spokesman said: ‘As with many other aspects of the coronavirus response, we would expect the public to respond in good faith.
‘That is what they have done with other aspects of the scheme, I think we’d expect it to be the same here.’
On testing being rolled out to other groups, the spokesman added: ‘We want the capacity that we have in the system to be used and you can see this morning that the system is working, people are booking slots and now they are going to be able to undergo tests.’
Asked whether the government was confident people would be able to test themselves accurately with a kit sent to their homes, the spokesman added: ‘There are videos available to show people how to do this and people will be given clear instructions.
‘We would hope they would be able to do this, yes.’