Millions of rapid Covid-19 tests are to be manufactured by British firms as the Government ramps up its plans to encourage people without symptoms to get themselves checked for the virus.

Two firms have signed deals with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to make lateral flow tests.

The firms will be able to make two million rapid turnaround tests every week by the end of May, officials said.

It comes as the Government is encouraging more and more people to take tests when they do not have symptoms.

It is hoped that by finding cases among people who do not have symptoms, it will help stem the spread of the virus.

DHSC said that it has agreed contracts with Omega Diagnostics, headquartered in Alva in Scotland, and Global Access Diagnostics, based in Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, to provide manufacturing capacity for up to 200 million tests – and creating around 470 jobs.

It said that by the end of May, the companies will have the capacity to produce approximately two million tests every week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Rapid lateral flow tests are essential to help us identify cases of the virus we otherwise wouldn’t find and preventing the virus spreading in our workplaces and communities.

“These tests will help keep businesses open, our children return to school, people to visit their loved ones in care homes safely.

“British innovation is at the forefront of our response to this pandemic and this partnership with two Great British firms will help us to build back better by tapping into the UK’s domestic talent, ingenuity and industry.”

Health minister Lord Bethell, added: “The UK continues to lead the way in medical diagnostics, and we are working with companies such as Omega and Global Access Diagnostics to build on our expertise in the field.

“The whole industry has come together to respond to Covid-19 and get us back to the people and things we love, helping us stop the spread of the virus now while strengthening our resilience for the future.”