One million home coronavirus tests ‘available to the public in weeks’ – The Sun
CORONAVIRUS home test kits could be available in a matter of weeks, says Public Health England.
The finger-prick test, which detects antibodies to the virus in the blood, is able to determine if someone has or has already had Covid-19.
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It comes as the number of people infected with coronavirus in the UK has risen to 9,849 – with the death toll standing at 477.
When a person gets infected by the virus, the body starts making specially designed proteins called antibodies to fight the infection.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director for Public Health England (PHE), said plans were in place for "a million tests that people can do themselves".
"In other words, members of the public will be able to take a blood test and send it back in the post and get that analysed," she told the health and social care committee on Thursday.
"That is an antibody test that tells you if you have had the condition.
"That is absolutely critical for two reasons: to understand what it is going on but also to allow people to return to work.
"That is well advanced but not ready yet. We need to be absolutely sure it is a valid test.
"We expect that to come within a couple of weeks but I wouldn't want to over promise on that, and I think the chief medical officer has been absolutely clear on it being right before it is put out."
Ms Doyle's comments come after MPs yesterday heard the Government has bought 3.5 million antibody tests and will prioritise NHS staff and key workers – like doctors and nurses – to enable people to go back to work.
However, the Government last night made it clear those tests will not be available for the public to buy.
Instead, Boots and Amazon will be used to distribute tests to NHS workers and other critical workers who are self-isolating – along Government lines.
Samples of the test are being quality checked in Oxford this week before they are made available for distribution nationwide.
Prof Sharon Peacock, from the National Infection Service, said they will be sold for a small fee or given away for free.
She said: “Once we are assured that they do work, they will be rolled out into the community.
“Testing the test is a small matter, and I anticipate that it will be done by the end of this week.
“Once the bulk of the tests arrive they will be distributed into the community, where there will be a mechanism to order a test via Amazon.
“In the near future people will be able to order a test that they can test themselves or go to Boots, or somewhere similar to have their finger prick test done.”
Prof Peacock added: “If you have antibodies you know you have had the infection. This is not just for health workers, this is for the general population.
“Over time we would expect a proportion of the population to test positive and that will allow them to get back to work.”
Users or pharmacists will have to prick a finger and place a drop of blood on a stick, which looks like a home pregnancy test.
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Some will give an immediate result and others must be returned to a lab. Results will be recorded on medical records.
Currently, Public Health England is only testing patients for Covid-19 in hospital with nasal swabs.
This test only shows whether someone has the virus – and not whether they have already recovered from it.
However, the new at-home test would reveal if someone has had the bug and built up immunity, and is therefore unlikely to catch it again.
The chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, explained the government would prioritise key workers – such as NHS staff – for the new antibody test.
Explaining the process at the Downing Street press briefing last night, he said: "Once we’re confident of which tests will work and how many we have available to use, there’s a hierarchy of things that we need to do.
"We need to start off by answering that critical question – what proportion of people get this without any symptoms because that has big implications for the way we then manage this.
"Then we need to help make sure we can get NHS workers tested to make sure we can work out who is immune, or almost certainly immune, to this infection and who isn’t.
"We’ll basically go out in kind of a graded way from there."
He added: "I do not think – and I want to be clear – that this is something that we’ll be suddenly ordering on the internet next week.
"We need to go through the evaluation, then the first critical uses, and then spread it out from there."
The NHS is also carrying out separate tests to see if people currently have the virus, which are being given to patients in hospitals alongside some community sampling.
A Boots UK spokesperson told The Sun Online: “We are keen to work with the Government to explore opportunities to support Covid-19 testing and to support the NHS in any way we can.
"However we do not have any type of Covid-19 tests in our stores.
"Customers should not make a trip to a Boots store or pharmacy for this purpose.”
Also during last night's briefing, Boris Johnson said the Government was "massively ramping up" testing for coronavirus as he announced that 405,000 people have now signed up as volunteers to help vulnerable people.
He said it was hoped that "very soon" 250,000 tests would be carried out each day.
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