Mass rollout of coronavirus testing should be the Government’s top priority – and London alone will need more than 7,500 home testing teams, according to an NHS registrar.

Dr Alex Armitage, a doctor at Southampton General Hospital who lives in Dalston, said members of the public could be trained to carry out tests.

The World Health Organisation has likened tackling Covid-19 without widespread testing to fighting a fire with a blindfold on.

But the UK government has not started mass testing, instead focusing on the most at risk patients. It blames global shortages in tests for the slow response.

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Dr Armitage, who stood as a Green Party candidate in Hackney at the General Election, said it was now “certainly clear” home testing teams are needed “in every community in London”.

He believes there should be two or three teams for every polling district in the capital.

There were 3,776 polling districts in London in 2016, according to data from the Electoral Commission – meaning between 7,500 and 11,300 teams would be needed.

Dr Armitage said each team would have two or three people working together to carry out tests, log data, supervise and drive between locations.

He said: “Some people might say that’s unachievable.

“But we’ve seen the Health Secretary Matt Hancock launch this NHS volunteers scheme.

“Already there have been thousands upon thousands of people who have shoCwn an interest in volunteering for the NHS.

“This is something that people could be directed towards.”

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Mr Hancock originally called for 250,000 NHS volunteers – but with more than half a million now signed up, that target has been extended to 750,000.

Dr Armitage said members of the public would need to know how to put on protective gear and take nose and throat swabs – but it would “certainly” be possible to train testers at speed.

He said patients could then be monitored virtually by health workers from their homes, and moved to hospital if they became seriously ill.

He said: “We’re going to have to be innovative in how we do this – there’s no doubt about that, this is a completely unprecedented public health emergency.”

He added: “The Government is ramping up our ability to test and we have to be able roll that out on a mass scale.”

Dr Armitage said ministers must avoid “groupthink amongst people in a closed room in Whitehall” and listen to health workers in hospitals.

He said: “In a way the experts on this are people who are working on the front line, the people who are dealing with this situation at the moment.”

He said the Government has “sadly been caught slightly unprepared for this pandemic” and been slow to lockdown the country.

But Dr Armitage added that ministers had now “got the message” from frontline staff, and “the time for criticising the Government is over”.

Green Party co-leader Sian Berry joined the call for more tests, saying knowledge was “essential for stopping the spread” of coronavirus.

She said: “The belated decision to lock down Britain is welcome but we can still do more to protect our key workers from infection.

“We need people to stay at home and follow NHS advice – and developing a plan now for how mobile testing units will work in the community could be one more way of holding back the spread.”

The Department of Health and Social Care was approached for comment.

The Government has now (March 23) ordered everyone to stay at home unless absolutely necessary to fight the spread of coronavirus. You can find the latest guidance here. Advice on the virus from Public Health England is available here.