Britain agrees deal on antibody tests: PM's spokesman

Grant Boone
May 23, 2020

Hancock said an antibody surveillance study had found 17% of people in London and around 5% or higher in the rest of the country had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.

Widespread availability of antibody tests may help Britain lift its lockdown restrictions, because they show who has already had the virus and might have a degree of immunity, meaning they can resume social contact with others.

To that end, Hancock announced that Britain had signed contracts with pharmaceutical company Roche and Abbott to supply more than 10 million antibody tests.

"From next week, we will begin rolling these out in a phased way; at first, to health and care staff, patients and residents".

The tests are not without their critics. "They are distinct but complementary, it's perfectly OK - in fact possibly advantageous - to introduce the one before the other", he said. Check your state's restrictions on gathering limits.

However, it is yet to be confirmed what level of immunity, if any, infected people develop. This will mean they can rapidly follow advice to stay at home if they test positive, or return to work.

"Have we now agreed a deal on the antibody testing?"

'This is an important milestone, and it represents further progress in our national testing programme, ' he added.

The antibody test will show if someone has had coronavirus in the past.

Up to 4,000 people of all ages and backgrounds will participate in the pilot, which will run for up to six weeks.

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He told the daily Downing Street press briefing: "I would caution against using any tests that might be made available without knowing quite how good those tests are".

It came after mounting pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson from senior Tories, with former party chairman Lord Patten calling the charge "appalling" and "monstrous".

"My advice would be to wait until we have better tests which will be available in a similar form very soon, though they are still under evaluation at the moment".

'This is a victory for common decency and the right thing to do.

The Roche tests received approval from the European Union last month, while the US Food and Drug Administration gave them an emergency use authorisation on 2 May.

His comments echo those of NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis who said earlier in the week people should be cautious over buying home kits.

He said: "It's not just about the clinical advances that these tests can bring".

"We're not yet in a position to say that those who test positive in these antibody tests are immune from coronavirus". The UK's total death toll stands at 36,042.

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