Home Coronavirus Antibody Kits To Be Available 'In Days' Across The UK
The public will be able to order coronavirus antibody tests "within days", MPs have now heard.
While we don't yet have a precise date, speaking to the Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday, Professor Sharon Peacock - director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England (PHE) - said that as many as 3.5 million tests have now been bought.
She added that they would be available to get hold of in the "near future".
The tests come in two different models: one could be ordered at home from somewhere like Amazon and be sent back to be analysed, while another would be an instant finger prick, likely available in places like Boots, which could offer results in as soon as 10-15 minutes.
We don't yet know what a test is expected to cost, but the Professor believes, if anything, the cost will be "minimal".
"Once we are assured that they do work, they will be rolled out into the community," she said.
"Testing the test is a small matter, and I anticipate that it will be done by the end of this week.
"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."
When asked if the test would be available in "days" rather than weeks, she confirmed: "Absolutely".
The antibody test will aim to establish whether somebody has recovered from COVID-19, rather than whether they currently have it.
It will specifically be looking for antibodies to the virus in their blood, which will reveal whether they have previously been infected.
There have been a few cases of people testing for coronavirus on more than one occasion, but scientists believe these may be faulty tests, or that even if this is the case, they might not be infectious the second time around.
The assumption, then, is that those who have the antibodies are immune, and likely not a risk.
The revelation is some much needed good news for NHS staff, who will be able to go back to work without worrying about isolation, or worse infecting those around them, if they have developed antibodies.
It comes after people have been urging the government to test doctors and nurses since the very start of this epidemic - warning that going un-tested not only leaves them at risk, but puts their vulnerable patients and their families at risk too.
Crucially, failing to test NHS staff also wastes valuable resources if they are forced to isolate unnecessarily, and can no longer treat COVID-19 patients.
The test detects the presence of IGM, an antibody that you see in the very early stages of coronavirus infection. It also looks for IGG, which you see an increase of as the body responds to the virus.
Speaking in further detail about the antibody tests yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the tests will become available "very soon," and promised that the government is "ramping up" its response.
Professor Peacock today added: "This is not just for key workers, it's for the general population. Over time it's expected the proportion of the population will be positive.
"And that will allow them to get back to work."
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