AN online retailer, which is about to open a fulfilment centre in Darlington, has confirmed it will supply coronavirus testing kits to frontline NHS staff.

Amazon UK confirmed it had been asked by the government to help the 'fast-track' of COVID-19 tests through the use of its 'logistics network.'

The government has come under mounting pressure to ramp up the testing of its frontline NHS staff as the number of cases increase daily.

As of March 31, there are 25,150 confirmed cases - while 1,789 people have now died after testing positive for the virus.

The Northern Echo: Amazon Fulfilment Centres have popped up across the world in recent yearsAmazon Fulfilment Centres have popped up across the world in recent years

Amazon said it would be working alongside other retailers including Boots and Royal Mail to ship the tests once they are made available.

A contract worker at Amazon in Darlington previously told The Northern Echo that the site would be one of many across the UK stocking the tests for the NHS.

Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon, said: We believe our role serving customers and the community during this time is a critical one, and we are committed to working closely with the Government to identify ways in which we can support efforts to respond to the crisis."

The Northern Echo:

A spokesperson for Amazon UK said: "These tests will not be available over the counter or for purchase online form any retailers. We are using our logistics network to support the NHS with their plans."

What the government have said

The UK government has set itself a target to conduct more than 25,000 tests per day, but the Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove last night said the target may not be met until the end of April.

Mr Gove said more than 8,000 patients were tested on Monday, March 30 while suggesting the testing of NHS staff on the front line needed to go "further and faster."

Mr Gove said: "More NHS staff are returning to the front line, and more testing is taking place to help those self-isolating come back, and to protect those working so hard in our hospitals and in social care.

"But while the rate of testing is increasing, we must go further, faster.

"We are working with companies worldwide to ensure that we get the material we need to increase tests of all kinds."

Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said: "Laboratory-based testing on this scale is a little like building the medical equivalent of a car factory.

"We are assembling many different parts, some of them quite specialised and hard to find, then getting them to work accurately together in a highly co-ordinated process.

"There are bound to be teething problems, so we cannot switch on hundreds of thousands of lab tests overnight.

"But we hope that soon these hub laboratories will be operating round the clock, allowing us to significantly scale up our testing."