UK government buys 10 million antibody tests as more than three million have been tested for Covid-19 nationwide
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UK health secretary Matt Hancock has revealed contacts have been signed for 10 million anti-body tests that indicate whether someone has had Covid-19 and recovered as more than the number of coronavirus tests in the UK pass the three million mark.
He said the purchase was also conducted on behalf of the devolved nations who will then decide how they want to integrate their allocation of the tests within their own programmes dealing with the virus.
Mr Hancock also confirmed there were promising signs that a new UK-produced Covid-19 swab test that can deliver a result within 20 minutes of taking the test because it does not need to be sent to a lab for processing.
While a sample from so-called surveillance testing has revealed that around 17 per cent of people in London and around five percent or more people in the rest of the country have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.
He said: “We are working with many top names to help us deliver testing with a rapid turnaround, for example one innovative company Optogene has produced an early test which is being trialled from today and it is because it is so fast.
“It doesn't need to be sent to a lab to be processed and so you get the results on the spot typically within around 20 minutes. It's already proven effective in early trials and we want to find out if it will be effective on a larger scale. We will monitor its effectiveness very closely and if it works will roll it out as soon as we can – now this is just one of a number of innovative testing technologies that we are pushing forward as fast as the science allows.
“The second development I wanted to share today is around antibody tests. These tell you if you have had the virus and have developed antibodies in response, that might help you to fight the virus in future.
“We're not yet in a position to say that those who test positive in these antibody tests are immune from coronavirus, but as our understanding of the disease improves the insight these antibody tests provide will be crucial.
“We are backing efforts to develop our own home-grown antibody test from the UK rapid test consortium and that work is showing some early promise.
“Many of these early tests were not reliable enough for clinical use but we have made some available at the small scale and we now have the results of our antibodies surveillance study.
“This has told us that around 17 per cent of people in London and around five percent or higher in the rest of the country have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. This was based on a sample but for the public at large to know whether or not they've had coronavirus we need antibody tests at larger scale.
“Two lab-based products produced by Roche diagnostics and Abbott Labs have been given a positive evaluation by Public Health England and have been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and three further tests are being assessed right now.
“I can announce today that we have signed contracts to supply in the coming months over10 million tests from Roche and Abbot – from next week will begin rolling these out in a phased way, at first to health and social care staff, patients and residents.
“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 locally.
“This is an important milestone and it represents further progress in our national testing program. It's not just about the clinical advances that these tests can bring although obviously that's important."
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