The British government has announced a multi-billion pound plan to offer English people two free rapid tests for Covid-19 every week from Friday onwards.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the system was the only way “back to normality” for the country, despite fears that false positives could prompt more lockdown measures.

“Reclaiming our lost freedoms & getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly,” Hancock announced on Twitter yesterday.

“Everyone will be able to take a free rapid coronavirus test twice a week from the 9th April.”

The testing kits, which do not require laboratory confirmation of results, will be on offer from testing centres around the country and give users a positive or negative result within half an hour.

Anyone who tests positive will be forced to isolate and undergo a more accurate PCR test to determine whether they have in fact contracted the virus.

Shops, gyms and hairdressers are all expected to open from next week in the UK, whilst cafes, restaurants and pubs will be allowed to cater for people outdoors.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the increased testing capacity was needed so that the months of lockdown sacrifices “are not wasted.”

He previously expressed his hope that a vaccine passport system could be in place by summer for people wishing to travel abroad, but government sources have said a “traffic light” system might be used instead to allow people with negative tests to transit internationally.

Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University Allyson Pollock told the BBC that the new plan for mass testing was a “scandalous waste of money”.

“When the prevalence rate of coronavirus falls as low as it is at the moment then an increasing proportion of cases are likely to be false positives meaning that cases and contacts will self isolate unnecessarily,” she claimed.