Andorra orders 150,000 antibody tests from South Korea

Andorra (population 77,000) orders 150,000 antibody tests from South Korea – enough to test the entire population twice

  • The Pyrenees micro-state plans to screen the entire population within weeks 
  • Andorra’s health minister says the Korean-made tests are ‘absolutely reliable’ 
  • Antibody tests can detect who has developed immunity to the coronavirus 

Tiny Andorra has ordered enough antibody tests to screen the whole population nearly twice over, it has emerged. 

The Pyrenees micro-state with a population of 77,000 has placed an order for 150,000 of the coronavirus tests from South Korea, local media says. 

Health minister Joan Martínez Benazet says the tests are ‘absolutely reliable’ and will arrive via Spain in the next two weeks. 

Once they do, Andorran health authorities plan to test the entire population to see if their body has developed immunity to Covid-19. 

Andorra hopes to test its entire population for antibodies using 150,000 tests it has ordered from South Korea (file photo, a medical worker examines patients’ swabs in a lab) 

Health authorities around the world hope that antibody tests will signpost a way out of the global lockdown, because people who are confirmed to be immune could be exempted from quarantine rules. 

‘We want to test the whole population for coronavirus antibodies within a few weeks,’ the Andorran health minister said. 

‘That way we’ll see how high the infection rate in the population really is and what measures we need to take so we can restart public life.’  

The tests have been ordered from a trusted company in South Korea where widespread testing has already been carried out, the Andorran minister says. 

Andorra has confirmed 428 cases and 15 deaths, and borders Spain which is suffering one of the world’s worst outbreaks. 

Like Spain and its other neighbour France, Andorra has also shut down non-essential shops and told people to stay at home to contain the epidemic.  

The principality has also drafted in 39 doctors and nurses from Cuba after 60 medical workers in Andorra had to go into isolation over virus fears.  

The 12 doctors and 27 nurses arrived in Andorra by bus after flying into Madrid at the weekend.  

Andorra and Italy are the only European states to have accepted help from Cuba, whose global medical missions are viewed critically by Washington.    

In the UK, health secretary Matt Hancock says 3.5million antibody tests are on the way but the government has come under pressure over its testing policy.   

The latest Public Health England figures show that fewer than 10,000 of the current tests are being carried out per day, compared to 70,000 per day in Germany. 

There have also been demands for more testing for healthcare staff after it emerged that around one in four of the workforce are off sick or self-isolating. 

Downing Street has pointed the finger at a lack of chemical ‘reagents’, but the Chemical Industries Association says they are still being manufactured and supplied to the NHS. 

UK officials also say they are working with nine potential suppliers on developing an antibody test in Britain. 

Andorra has drafted in 39 medical workers from Cuba – some of whom are seen on a bus heading for the principality after they arrived at Madrid airport 

Most coronavirus tests that are currently in use can only reveal who is infected at the moment, meaning that many cases are missed. 

The UK government advises people with mild symptoms to isolate at home, meaning they are never added to the official tally.  

However, antibody tests can show who has been infected in the past and has developed immunity as a result.    

It is hoped that the tests would allow a gradual end to the lockdowns which are currently forcing billions of people to stay at home. A vaccine for the new coronavirus is expected to be months away at least. 

A German health official has also suggested that medics who are found to be immune would not need as much protective gear, helping supplies.  

Germany hopes to undertake random samples starting in the next few weeks to see how many people have been infected without realising it.   

‘Those people are positive for antibodies and, we can assume, immune, and contribute to the 60 or 70 percent of people who need to be immunised or infected before the pandemic will come to a standstill,’ top virologist Christian Drosten said in an NDR podcast.  

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