United Kingdom coronavirus test with 20-minute wait being trialled

Grant Boone
May 22, 2020

Hancock also said that Britain would trial a new antigen test - which shows whether people now have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus - that would return results in 20 minutes without needing to be sent to a lab for processing.

This would let them return to work the same day if they were negative rather than self-isolating just in case while they awaited results.

If given the green light, the scheme would then be introduced countrywide in six weeks, with pop-up testing facilities and drive-through sites set up.

In addition to the trials, Mr Hancock announced that the Government has acquired 10 million antibody tests, which will be be used to test NHS and care workers.

Separately, he outlined preliminary findings from research involving antibody tests which suggest 5 per cent of people nationally, and 17 per cent in London, have already had the virus.

This could allow an elderly patient with a positive result to go to hospital for hip surgery, in the knowledge that they were highly unlikely to catch the virus on the ward.

Before the press briefing, Downing Street announced a U-turn on the National Health Service surcharge, saying overseas health and care staff would be exempted from the fee levied on migrants to pay for the NHS.

If they bind, the test confirms that the person has had coronavirus in the past and has since developed antibodies against it.

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"As the Government acknowledges, of course, there are still unknowns". When we recover from an infection, some of those disease-fighting antibodies remain in the immune system to fight future instances of the same type of infection.

Earlier the Prime Minister's spokesman said the tests would be "free for people who need them, as you would expect".

The Health Secretary told yesterday's briefing: 'We're developing this critical science to know the impact of a positive antibody test and to develop the systems of certification to ensure people who have positive antibodies can be given assurances of what they can safely do'.

"From next week we will begin rolling these out in a phased way, at first to health and care staff, patients and residents" of care homes, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said. The tests, produced by Roche and Abbott, will be produced over the next several months, Reuters reported.

"Knowing if you have these antibodies will give us an idea if you have a better idea of contracting, spreading or dying from coronavirus".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who urged the PM in the Commons on Wednesday to scrap the charge, said: 'Boris Johnson is right to have U-turned and backed our proposal to remove the NHS charge for health professionals and care workers.

It also has a specificity of at least 99.8%, meaning there is only very small room for tests to come back as false positive. He said these would be rolled out as fast as possible if successful.

As well as the two tests from Roche and Abbott, Mr Hancock said three more are being assessed and he ultimately wants a "home-grown" antibody test which he said is "showing some early promise". "This will enable health and care workers to carry on with their shift or immediately isolate on the same day".

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