A home finger-prick test for the coronavirus will be offered to millions of people and delivered by Amazon if checks this week show that it works.
Those who have been tested could be allowed back to work if they have recovered and the tests show that they are immune, offering Britain a gradual route out of the lockdown.
If evaluation reveals that the test is accurate, NHS staff would be offered it in the next few weeks, with the general population gaining access online and in pharmacies.
On a day of cautious optimism over Britain’s response to the coronavirus crisis the government said it believed that the NHS would just about cope after the imposition of social distancing and a rapid increase in the number of intensive care beds.
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said that it would be “a close run thing” but added: “We do think that if everybody sticks to staying in your household unless absolutely essential, this gap [between the number of beds and the number of critically ill patients] will probably be manageable by the NHS.”