MILLIONS of Britons could soon be able to test themselves at home to see if they have or have not had coronavirus, opening up the possibility that people could return to work if they have recovered or are immune to the disease.

Scientists at an Oxford laboratory are this week examining the finger-prick test to see if it is viable. If it is, the prospect has been raised that it might even begin to be rolled out across the UK by Easter.

The development came as -

*The number of UK deaths rose by 43, including six more in Scotland, to 463. Infected cases shot up by a record 1,452 to 9,529.

*The British Medical Association warned doctors and patients would die without adequate personal protective equipment across the NHS.

*Prince Charles, 71, became the highest profile person to test positive for Covid-19 and was self-isolating at his home at Birkhall in Aberdeenshire after showing “mild symptoms” of the disease. His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, has tested negative. Buckingham Palace said the Queen, 93, who is staying at Windsor Castle with Philip, 98, remains in good health and is following all appropriate advice.

*More than 400,000 people have signed up to be volunteers for the NHS in just 24 hours. It followed a call for 250,000 people to do so. The Scottish Conservatives called on the Scottish Government to set up a similar scheme north of the border.

*Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, will today set out new measures to help Britain’s army of five million self-employed people, which could see a move to partially cover their lost incomes due to the virus, after Boris Johnson insisted the UK Government was “putting its arms around people” in an unprecedented way to help them get through the coronavirus crisis.

*The Coronavirus Bill setting out emergency powers for the police and other authorities became law as the House of Commons rose for its Easter recess early.

At Westminster, Professor Sharon Peacock, Director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, told MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Committee that 3.5 million Covid-19 anti-body tests had been bought and would be available in the "near future". They would be distributed by Amazon and be available at stores like Boots.

"Testing the test is a small matter and I anticipate that it will be done by the end of this week,” said Prof Peacock.

"In the near future, people will be able to order a test that they can test themselves or go to Boots or somewhere similar to have their finger-prick test done."

Asked if this meant the test would be available in a number of days rather than weeks or months, she replied: “Absolutely."

However, Professor Chris Whitty, the UK Government’s Chief Medical Officer, dismissed any notion that a coronavirus antibody test would be ready to buy online next week.

He stressed the accuracy of the tests needed to be properly tested before they were made available for public use.

Last week, Boris Johnson said anti-body tests would be a "game-changer" in the fight against the virus.

But speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Prof Whitty said members of the public would not be buying these tests via the internet next week.

He stressed that frontline NHS workers would need the tests first so they could get back to work if they have already had the virus.

"I do not think - I want to be clear - that this is something we will suddenly be ordering on the internet next week,” declared Prof Whitty.

"We need to go through the evaluation, then the first critical uses, and then stretch it out from that point of view. We need to do that in a systematic way. The one thing that is worse than no test, is a bad test," he declared.

The CMO stressed that it would be a "close run thing" for the NHS to get through the coming weeks without the coronavirus crisis overwhelming critical care capacity.

Everybody needed to follow the strict lockdown measures designed to slow the spread of the virus in order to give the NHS the best possible chance, he explained, noting how the NHS was ramping up its capacity.

Although there was "not enormous pressure" at present, the NHS was braced for demand for critical care beds to rise over the next fortnight, added Prof Whitty.

At the daily press conference, the Prime Minister insisted the UK was "coping very well indeed under the most challenging possible circumstances".

He said the Government was "massively ramping up" testing for coronavirus, saying it was hoped that "very soon" 250,000 tests would be carried out each day.

Earlier, Professor Neil Ferguson from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who is a member of the Science Advisory Group for Emergencies, which advises the Government, also appeared before the Commons Committee. It was the college’s modelling of a potential death toll of 250,000 that helped accelerate the Whitehall response.

On when the UK would hit its peak of Covid-19, Prof Ferguson said there was uncertainty but noted: "If the current measures work as we would expect them, then we will see intensive care demand peak in approximately two to three weeks and then decline thereafter."

He went on: "We clearly cannot lock down the country for a year. The challenge that many countries in the world are dealing with is how we move from an initial intensive something that will have societal effects but will allow the economy to re-start.

"That is likely to rely on very large-scale testing and contact tracing. It should be stated that the entire world is in the very early stage of developing such strategies."

Prof Ferguson added countries were looking to China, which was lifting its lockdown, to see what would happen next but stressed: "The long-term exit from this is clearly the hopes around a vaccine."

Elsewhere, the BMA warned that doctors and patients would die without adequate personal protective equipment[PPE] across the NHS.

It said doctors were risking serious illness and death due to a lack of stock and it claimed many more could go off sick unless immediate steps are taken.

The association said there was "growing evidence that thousands of GPs and hospital staff are still not being provided with the kit they need to properly protect themselves and their patients", despite Government assurances.

However, Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, has said millions of pieces of PPE have been sent out in recent days and a hotline has been set up so staff can report where there are shortages.

Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy CMO also insisted on Wednesday there was enough PPE available for all.

But the BMA said it had heard accounts of no stock, very small amounts of PPE, rationing and kit that did not offer sufficient protection.

In other developments –

*Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said the international community would work together to face the "unprecedented challenge" of getting stranded citizens home during the coronavirus pandemic. He spoke after a conference call discussed the implications of the global crisis with foreign ministers from the G7 group of industrialised nations taking part.

*A surge of migrants attempted to cross the English Channel on Wednesday, despite the state of national lockdown. A total of 169 people were intercepted by UK and French authorities as they made the journey.

*Almost half a million benefits claims have been received by the Department for Work and Pensions over the past nine days.

*The Foreign Office announced that Steven Dick, 37, the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Budapest, had died after contracting coronavirus.

*The PM confirmed ministers were considering asking black taxi drivers to act as a transport service for NHS workers.