CORONAVIRUS testing must go “further and faster,” Michael Gove, has admitted, as a health expert cautiously pointed to evidence that social distancing measures could be having a positive effect on restraining the outbreak.

At the daily Downing St press conference, the Cabinet Office Minister suggested a UK Government target of 25,000 daily tests might not be met until the end of next month.

He explained: “While the rate of testing is increasing, we must go further, faster. A critical constraint on the ability to rapidly increase testing capacity is the availability of the chemical reagents which are necessary in the testing.

“The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary are working with companies worldwide to ensure that we get the material we need to increase tests of all kinds.”

Critics of the Government have denounced its efforts on testing, comparing them to the government’s in Germany, where 500,000 tests are being carried out every week.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn said: "The phenomenal public outpouring of support for our NHS workers needs to be matched by Government action.”

As well as asking why so many frontline staff were still without personal protective equipment, the Labour leader said "testing and tracing for coronavirus has to be expanded immediately" with tests for NHS staff especially urgent so those given the all-clear could return to work.

Mr Corbyn also warned the lack of testing for social care workers was "risking their health and that of those they care for, who are the most vulnerable to the virus".

As coronavirus cases grew by their largest number in a single day, almost 400, Stephen Powis, the Medical Director of NHS England, suggested at the press conference progress was, nonetheless, being made as new cases appeared to be reaching a plateau.

"It is really important not to read too much[into the figures] because it is really early days. We are not out of the woods, we are very much in the woods," declared Dr Powis.

But he added: "So, green shoots but only green shoots and we must not be complacent and we must not take our foot off the pedal."

Mr Gove was equally keen to guard against complacency, saying: “There are some signs - as a result of people observing social distancing - that we may be able to flatten the spread of infection but now is absolutely not the time for people to imagine that there can be any relaxation or slackening.”

The Scot also announced the first of thousands of new British-made ventilators would be available for use in UK hospitals from next week.

He praised the "dedication and ingenuity" of manufacturers like Dyson and Rolls Royce for getting the machines off the production line so quickly.

The move came as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Government was waiving import taxes on vital medical equipment including ventilators, coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing.

And the Treasury highlighted how, from today, thousands of high street firms were beginning to receive £25,000 cash grants and would now be exempt from business rates as they began to benefit from a £22 billion aid package.