The military is to begin testing essential workers around the UK for coronavirus in mobile units operating in “hard-to-reach” areas.

At least 96 new pop-up facilities, which will travel to care homes, police and fire stations, prisons and benefits centres, are due to be running by May.

The testing units, which can be set up in 20 minutes, will see swabs collected by “specially trained” military personnel and taken to one of three “mega labs” to be processed, with results expected within 48 hours.

The number of mobile centres is being scaled up after a successful pilot last week, with eight units testing key workers on Sunday at sites including Salisbury, Southport and Teesside.

Figures on Saturday showed that 28,760 coronavirus tests were conducted in the previous 24 hours, well below the government’s daily target of 100,000 – which it aims to achieve by the end of April.