The target to build coronavirus testing capacity to 200,000 tests per day in the UK has been reached a day early, said the British Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
A total of 205,634 tests were available on Saturday, according to the Department for Health and Social Care.
This includes the capacity for 40,000 antibody tests a day which are currently available to NHS staff and care workers, to determine whether they have had the virus.
A system described as surveillance testing is also under way to develop a greater understanding of how the virus is moving through the population, with more than 250,000 conducted across the UK so far.
Mr Hancock said: “Reaching our 200,000 capacity target is an important milestone on our journey to control the spread of the virus, save lives and gradually ease lockdown.
“By rapidly expanding our testing capacity we have been able to introduce NHS Test and Trace, and enabling those who have coronavirus symptoms to get a test is an important part of the programme.
“I want to thank and pay tribute to the incredible team who joined together in one of the greatest national mobilisations that we’ve seen.
“We brought together the best minds in the civil service, NHS, PHE, universities and the scientific community, the armed forces and private sector companies across the globe to reach this incredible achievement.
“This is by no means the end of our ramping up of testing.
The NHS Test and Trace service processes thousands of tests a day. Labs across the country analyse these tests to confirm positive cases.
More info: https://t.co/Z3puUGJ3e6
John works in one of the labs testing samples. Here he explains more ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/IVOKdS7IfU
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) May 31, 2020
“We will continue to build upon the tremendous work so far, exploring new technology and deliver even more test results.”
Professor John Newton, national testing co-ordinator, added: “The expansion of our testing capacity has allowed us to take important steps to control the virus, including the introduction of a world-class contact tracing service that will help us to safely ease lockdown over time.
“I am proud to say that anyone in the country who needs a test can get one, regardless of where in the country they are.
“We will continue to develop and grow our testing capabilities, to learn more about transmission of the virus and how it has previously spread.”
More than 150 drive-through and mobile testing sites have been set up to help achieve the target, the Government said.