The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has written to members of a Conservative Party email list inviting them to apply for a coronavirus test, as ministers struggle to hit their target of 100,000 tests a day.

The message also contained a button that took users through to the government website offering the tests.

Under pressure over claims the UK was behind other countries such as Germany, Mr Hancock pledged 100,000 tests for Covid-19 would be carried out per day by the end of this month.

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But yesterday capacity stood at just 70,000, and the actual number of tests conducted was just over 43,000.

However, Professor John Newton, director of public health improvement for Public Health England, has said he is confident the 100,000 daily test target will be met by tomorrow’s deadline.

Yesterday Mr Hancock announced a massive expansion in the number of people eligible for a test – including to all those aged over 65 with symptoms.

He highlighted the new policy in the email titled: “Access to coronavirus testing expanded further. Apply now”.

Sent under Mr Hancock’s name it read: “Dear Friend,

“At yesterday’s daily coronavirus briefing I announced a further expansion of our testing programme.

“Testing is now available to all over 65s and members of their households, if they have symptoms.

“Additionally, any worker who needs to leave their home in order to go to work, and their households, if any of them have symptoms can also get a test.

“This means construction workers to emergency plumbers, research scientists to those in manufacturing – can now be tested.

“If this applies to you, or anyone in your household, please go online now and apply for a test.”

Sources close to Mr Hancock defended the email saying ministers wanted to advertise the policy to as many people as possible.

In a bid to increase the number of tests being carried out, the Government has also confirmed a series of regional centres where they will be administered, including sports stadiums and airports.

More than 40 sites are operational across the UK, with more expected by the end of the month.

They range from Inverness in Scotland to Plymouth.

Ministers want to reduce the amount of time spent travelling to a test centre to 45 minutes.

Locations include the Chessington World of Adventures theme park in Greater London, the Etihad stadium in Manchester and various sports clubs such as Cardiff FC, Worcester Warriors, and Londonderry rugby club.

Ikea stores in Gateshead and Wembley, London will also carry out tests, as well as airports including Manchester, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Stansted and Gatwick.

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