The UK government has announced that it is beginning public trials on an on the spot coronavirus test that gives results in twenty minutes in an effort to get the country out of lockdown.
The new swab test - which would show whether someone currently has the virus - does not need to be sent to a lab.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged caution on the tests however, and said more research needed to take place, with a smaller scale trial beginning soon to “monitor its effectiveness”.
“If it works, we will roll it out as soon as we can,” he said.
The new swab tests will be trialled in Hampshire in some A&E departments, GP testing hubs and care homes. The trial will run for six weeks and test up to 4,000 people.
He also confirmed that the government had signed contracts with Roche and Abbot that will lead to 10 million antibody tests being available across the UK, with NHS and care staff being prioritised.
The Health Secretary said, “the UK government has arranged supplies of these tests on behalf of the devolved administrations and each devolved nation is deciding how to use its test allocation and how testing will be prioritised and managed locally.”
According to studies in the trial period for the antibody tests, 17 percent of people in London may have had antibodies for coronavirus, while the figure is thought to be around five per cent elsewhere in the UK.
We’re rolling out over 10 million antibody tests across the UK, prioritising NHS and social care staff, patients & residents, a crucial part of our national effort to beat #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/UrrIjSwEAP— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) May 21, 2020
There are currently two types of tests available in the UK, the swab test and the antibody test.
Swab tests are already available to all adults and children aged over five on the NHS. They involve taking a swab up the nose or from the back of the throat and indicate if a person currently has Covid-19.
The antibody test is a blood test that looks for antibodies in the blood to see whether a person has had the virus. Antibodies are made by our immune system as it learns to fight an infection.
At the time of publication the number of people in the UK who have died after testing positive for the virus has now reached 36,042, a rise of 338.