NHS workers priority as coronavirus testing kits could be available soon

Home UK NHS workers priority as coronavirus testing kits could be available soon
NHS workers priority as coronavirus testing kits could be available soon

Millions of new coronavirus testing kits could be ready in days, rather than weeks or months, according to Public Health England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously spoken of a simple test for coronavirus as a potential "total game changer" in the battle against COVID-19.

It would show whether an individual had antibodies for COVID-19 which, if they did, would mean they could return to work if they were not showing symptoms.

Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, revealed on Wednesday that millions of such a test have been ordered and could be used "in the near future".

However, England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty was much more cautious about the tests and would not commit to a timeline for when they would become available.

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"I do not think, and I want to be clear, that this is something we'll be ordering on the internet next week," he said.

Prof Whitty said the tests would first need to be evaluated, and then the main priority for testing will be identifying how many people have had COVID-19 without showing symptoms, and which NHS workers are very likely to be immune.

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The test will then be "spread out" to the general population, he said.

Evidence suggests people cannot catch coronavirus twice in quick succession, if they have already been infected and recovered, the government has said.

Image: A medical worker extracts viruses from swab samples at a coronavirus testing laboratory

The tests, which look similar to pregnancy tests, could be ordered on Amazon or taken at high street branches such as Boots, Prof Peacock said.

A Boots spokesperson has said the company is "keen to work with the government to explore opportunities to support COVID-19 testing".

"However we do not have any type of COVID-19 tests in our stores," it added. "Customers should not make a trip to a Boots store or pharmacy for this purpose."

The World Health Organisation has urged countries to step up testing in the global fight against coronavirus.

Mr Johnson has vowed to increase daily testing "from 5,000 a day, to 10,000 to 25,000 and then 250,000".

Appearing before the House of Commons science and technology committee via video link, Prof Peacock said the new tests were "rapidly" being evaluated at a laboratory in Oxford with 3.5 million having already been ordered.

"Further millions are being ordered today," Prof Peacock told MPs.

"But we do need to ensure we understand how they operate, because these are brand new tests."

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Prof Peacock revealed the evaluation of the tests would likely be done by the end of this week.

She added: "In the near future people will be able to order a test so they can test themselves or go to Boots or somewhere similar to have their finger-prick test done."

Asked if the availability of the test to the public would be a number of days rather than weeks or months, she replied: "Absolutely."

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But speaking during the government's daily press briefing on Wednesday, Prof Whitty said the tests would only be rolled oRead More – Source

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