The UK government has ordered 50 million “immunity tests” which allegedly show if a person has already had and recovered from the Coronavirus.
The development comes as scientists working for the government-backed Rapid Testing Consortium at Oxford University report a “breakthrough” in their creation of the testing kits, saying that they are 99% effective.
It is widely believed that, as with most viruses, contracting Coronavirus creates immunity against catching it again.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, a government source said, “this could be the game changer - a breakthrough moment to help us turn the tide on the virus.”
Despite such optimism, The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned yesterday that there is little evidence to show that people who develop antibodies after recovering from COVID-19 are immune to a second infection. Such statement throw into doubt the government’s lockdown exit strategy, which relies on such tests.
According to reports, the new tests will cost consumers around £10, and may be available to the British masses as soon as June.
Reportedly, the tests work by taking a small pinprick sample of blood for analysis and can tell the user their results within 20 minutes. Similar to pregnancy tests, if two lines show on the testing device, then users know that they have developed the antibodies necessary to helping fight off the potentially lethal disease. On the other hand, if one line appears, then it means that the user either does not have the antibodies produced as part of the body’s attempt to fight off the Coronavirus, or simply that the test did not work.
The test - called the “Lateral Flow Test” - has been designed using the blood of patients who had previously been infected with COVID-19 but had displayed no or very few symptoms.
The Oxford research group is said to believe that it can deliver upward of 1 million of the tests per week by the summer.
The Oxford consortium’s leader, Jonathan Allis, said: “we are close to picking up 100% of all cases where people have antibodies. Now it is just a question of scaling up the manufacturing process.”
Health Minister Lord Bethell has been quoted by the Mail as saying, “this is a great story of how our manufacturers are stepping up to the challenge of COVID-19, and I am hopeful that their product will make an impact in our battle against this terrible disease.”
Yet, the WHO has made clear that governments should not rely on using “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to those who have recovered from COVID-19 as there are still questions about the accuracy of such testing.
A WHO spokesman has been widely quoted as saying, “some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an 'immunity passport' or 'risk-free certificate' that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection.”
“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”