Mr Johnson said: “In future, in the near future, we want to start using testing to identify people who are negative – who don’t have coronavirus and who are not infectious – so we can allow them to behave in a more normal way, in the knowledge they cannot infect anyone else with the virus.
“And we think, we hope, we believe that new types of test which are simple, quick and scalable will become available.
“They use swabs or saliva and can turn round results in 90 or even 20 minutes.
“Crucially, it should be possible to deploy these tests on a far bigger scale than any country has yet achieved – literally millions of tests processed every single day.”
A pilot of the Moonshot Covid-19 testing programme will begin in October despite government scientific advisers warning that it could be seen as “authoritarian”.
Salford and Southampton have been chosen as the proving grounds for mass testing, with separate pilots to be carried out at sports and leisure venues such as football stadiums and theatres.
The NHS Covid-19 app will have only a “limited effect” on containing coronavirus because too many people are waiting more than 24 hours for their test results, a government adviser has warned.
Official figures show just one in three people who turn up for a coronavirus test in England are getting results within 24 hours.
Outbreaks of Covid-19 are accelerating quite rapidly in the north west and north east of England and there has been a significant uptick in the number of people being admitted to intensive care, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said.
Presenting charts at a news conference tracking the growth of the virus, Mr Whitty said they were seeing heavy concentrations of outbreaks in particular areas.
“This increase, as you can see, is accelerating quite rapidly in some of those areas,” Mr Whitty said.
“In the north east, in the north west in particular but also in London to some extent, we’re seeing a significant uptick in the number of people who are entering intensive care.”
But the infection rate in Manchester has risen more than 15-fold since the local lockdown has been introduced, figures released on October 4 show.
The latest statistics show Manchester’s rate at now 335.9 cases per 100,000 – one of the worst in the country, having surpassed 200 per 100,000 in recent days.
When restrictions were introduced across parts of the North West in July, the figure was around 20 per 100,000.
On October 1, Liverpool, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough became the latest areas subjected to local coronavirus lockdowns. The new restrictions came into force at midnight on Saturday 3 October.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the second peak in coronavirus infections was “highly localised” and in some areas it was “spreading fast”.
In Liverpool, there are 268 cases per 100,000 people, he told MPs, so action was needed.
The measures announced for the Liverpool city region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough follow similar restrictions imposed in the North East.
Mr Hancock said: “We recommend against all social mixing between people in different households.
“We will bring in regulations, as we have in the North East, to prevent in law social mixing between people in different households in all settings, except outdoor public spaces like parks and outdoor hospitality.
“We also recommend that people should not attend professional or amateur sporting events as spectators in the areas that are affected.
“We recommend that people only visit care homes in exceptional circumstances, and there will be guidance against all but essential travel – essential travel of course includes going to work or school.”