The Sun : New 20-min coronavirus test gives diagnosis ‘on the spot’ – as Hancock confirms antibody test roll out next week

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A NEW "on the spot" coronavirus test which can diagnose the bug in just 20 minutes has been developed in the UK, Matt Hancock has announced.

The swab test, which can determine if someone currently has the virus, will be trialled from today and could be rolled out as soon as possible, the Health Secretary said.

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A new 'on the spot' coronavirus test which can diagnose the bug in just 20 minutes has been developed in the UK, Matt Hancock has announced
AP:Associated Press

It comes after the Government announced today that NHS workers will be the first to get antibody tests from next week.

No10 confirmed it had agreed a deal with Roche to roll out the tests free of charge to those who need them.

The antibody test can show whether someone has previously had coronavirus, while a swab test can determine if a person is currently infected.

Speaking about the Government's latest approach to testing, Mr Hancock told the daily Downing Street press briefing today: "Working with innovative science always has its risks.

"Lots of projects don't come off. But I'm prepared to back innovative developments even if they might never happen.

"I think it's worth it especially in these circumstances to back things before you know for sure if they're going to work and I make no apologies for that.

I'm prepared to back innovative developments even if they might never happen

Matt HancockHealth Secretary

"We're working with many top names to help us deliver testing with a rapid turn around.

"For example, one innovative company Optigene has produced an early test which is being trialled from today. It's interesting to us because it is so fast.

"It doesn't need to be sent to a lab to be processed so you get the result on the spot – typically within 20 minutes.

"It's already proven to be effective in early trials and we want to find out if it'll be effective on a larger scale.

"We'll monitor its effectiveness very closely and if it works we'll roll it out as soon as we can."

Antibody tests can show whether someone has previously been infected with the virus and therefore are presumed to have immunity
AFP or licensors

Mr Hancock also revealed that the government had signed contracts to supply 10 million antibody tests from Swiss company Roche and US firm Abbott Labs.

The kits – also known as serology tests – show who has been infected, although it is not yet clear whether the presence of antibodies confirms immunity or for how long.

"We have signed contracts to supply in the coming months over 10 million tests from Roche and Abbott," Mr Hancock said.

"From next week, we will begin rolling these out in a phased way. At first, to health and 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 managed locally.

"This is an important milestone and it represents further progress in our national testing programme."

Mr Hancock also revealed that an antibody surveillance study suggests 17 per cent of people in London and around 5 per cent of the rest of the nation have coronavirus antibodies.

First up

Earlier today, No10 announced that healthcare workers at four hospitals across the UK, will be the first to discover if they have already had Covid-19 – before they are rolled out more widely.

Royal Preston Hospital will be one of the trusts to receive the kits – and experts have said they will be able to perform thousands of tests per day from June 1.

The tests will help the lab understand how many people in the population is affected and it will then become part of a nationwide track and trace initiative.

Made by Roche, it is set to complement current antigen testing that involves a swab and tells you if you currently have the bug.

The trust in Preston welcomed the new testing capabilities and Dr Martin Myers, consultant clinical biochemist at the hospital said it will help public health doctors decide how to unlock where we are going as a society.

It comes after Superdrug yesterday became the first high street shop to sell a home test for Covid-19, with kits selling out within hours of being added to their website.

NHS England's medical director Stephen Powis did however urge caution with regards to home tests warning it's not known "how good they are".

Speaking to Sky News he added that it will also be able to see how many of us have the disease and how many of us have antibodies to it.

"So it is really giving them the intelligence and information as to how many of us have had the disease."

This is while microbiologist Dr David Orr said the tests will make better-informed decisions but said that it will still be hard to tell how well the antibodies are killing the virus.

In a statement the  Department of Health and Social Care in England said: Antibody testing is an important part of our strategy to counter the spread of Covid-19 and to help us understand who has had the disease.

"In addition to the recent huge expansion of the UK's swab-based coronavirus testing capacity, we are actively developing our plans for antibody testing across the NHS and ultimately the wider public."

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