With Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying Britain had gone through the coronavirus peak, a mass testing program to measure the spread of the virus through the population is seen as key to any alleviation of social distancing measures that have shut down the economy and forced millions to stay at home.
"I have not the figures yet, they are going to be published later today. But it looks as if we are either going to meet the target or come close so we're going to have increased the amount of testing in this country very significantly, "he told BBC TV.
"It is a significant stepping stone. We've now built the network's beginnings that we're going to need to test, track and track for the next phase of fighting the virus. "Johnson and his government were criticized not only for not stepping up testing quickly, but also for slowly moving to bring in a lockdown and lack of protective equipment for health workers.
With more than 26,000 deaths, Britain is set to be one of Europe's worst-hit countries, and the government's response to the outbreak is all but inevitable to be subsequently investigated.
Opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer in an interview with the Evening Standard newspaper renewed his criticism of the prime minister, saying that Johnson was "slow, slow at every turn."
He called for testing to ramp up to a quarter of a million tests every 24 hours, and for the deployment of 50,000 contact tracers to keep the nation safe.
Britain conducted more than 81,000 tests on Wednesday, a leap from the beginning of last month when only 10,000 people were tested in what the country's national strategic testing coordinator, John Newton, called "an extraordinary achievement."
"As we move to the next phase the testing requirement will change and we can now respond quickly with the necessary testing capability," he said Thursday in a blog post.
"Our ultimate goal is for anyone needing a test to have one ... Testing will help to keep it under control (the infection rate) once we're out, but lack of testing hasn't kept us in lockdown for a day longer.