Home flu tests could be launched this winter to combat a feared surge in infections.
Ministers are said to be worried that people suffering with flu, which has similar symptoms to the virus, may not seek help if they test negative for Covid-19.
This could result in a greater strain on the NHS as many could become seriously ill and need hospitalisation.
Up to 25,000 people are killed every year from flu depending on the severity of strains and the effectiveness of the annual vaccine.
The Telegraph understands that the Department of Health is now exploring whether it is possible to expand winter virus testing via home or community testing. A flu test would involve a nasal and throat swab, similar to PCR and lateral flow tests.
A government source cautioned that “at present there are no plans to do so”.
However, Simon Dukes, the head of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said while there have not been any discussions with the department or NHS about home flu kits, “we are open to having a discussion about it”.
He said: “When you’ve got a network of 11,500 pharmacies across the country that means that anyone can nip down to the high street and pick one up, and that’s proven to be really popular. Something like 95 to 98 per cent of pharmacies are participating in the lateral flow distribution service. So you’ve got fantastic coverage across the country. So, if you were planning to do something similar for flu, if you felt that there was a need and a desire because of the risk that flu would pose in the coming season, then clearly community pharmacies would be ideally placed to distribute the tests.”