By David Shepardson and Alexandra Alper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump is set to meet on Friday with major laboratory company executives to discuss efforts to ramp up testing for the coronavirus, two sources briefed on the matter said, as the outbreak in the country widened.

Officials from Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc, Quest Diagnostics Inc, Lab Corp and others are expected to attend, the officials said on condition of anonymity. The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The pace of U.S. testing for the highly contagious virus that is sweeping the world has been heavily criticized. Trump said on Friday that testing in the United States will soon happen on a large scale, but did not provide any details.

On Thursday, the top U.S. official on infectious diseases, Anthony Fauci, told Congress that people cannot get tests for the coronavirus easily and the U.S. testing system is not meeting the country’s needs.

The United States has tested a much smaller percentage of people than other major countries with significant outbreaks of coronavirus, which can cause the sometimes fatal COVID-19 respiratory illness.

Fauci told MSNBC he expects to see testing availability ramp up within a week.

The New York State Department of Health can authorize certain laboratories to begin testing for the coronavirus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday.

The agency is granting this flexibility due to the urgent public health need for additional testing capacity in the United States. Boosting testing capacity is crucial to assessing the scope of the U.S. outbreak and identifying where it is spreading most rapidly.

More than 1,700 cases of coronavirus and at least 40 deaths have been reported in the United States, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University and local public health authorities.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Alex Alper; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)