On Wednesday, the Government published an evaluation of a new type of testing – called “lateral flow tests” – which last week began being offered to everyone in Liverpool.
The study by Oxford University and Public Health England found the type in use in the city was able to detect 77 per cent of people who were infected with Covid-19. And they were able to detect 95 per cent of cases with high viral loads, which make people most infectious.
However, the rate dropped sharply when people were asked to do the tests at home.
On Wednesday scientists warned that the public will have to be given lessons in how to use tests, which require patience for the swab to be shaken in the box at least 10 times.
Scientists said the tests could play a “major role” in restoring normality, with widespread use cutting transmission of the virus by up to 90 per cent.
Government scientists say the findings pave the way for daily “freedom passes” with those testing negative in the morning allowed to attend football matches, theatres and pubs.
One expert said they would be “confident” spending time in a crowd if everyone had taken the checks and been given the all-clear.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, said: “These inexpensive, easy-to-use tests can play a major role in our fight against Covid-19.
“They identify those who are likely to spread the disease and when used systematically in mass testing could reduce transmissions by 90 per cent.
“They will be detecting the disease in large numbers of people who have never previously even received a test.”
However, health officials are concerned about poor take-up of mass testing.
On Wednesday, Liverpool’s mayor urged more people to come forward. Joe Anderson revealed that since the scheme launched almost two weeks ago, a total of 44,233 people have been tested, of whom 220 were positive.