In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the UK has bought 3.5 million antibody tests. When the tests enter circulation, it will be easier to distinguish whether someone has already had the virus and has since developed antibodies for the disease.
The World Health Organization has stressed the importance of testing, in order to get a full picture of the scale of the coronavirus outbreak.
In the UK, antibody tests could also prove particularly beneficial for the NHS, as staff could return to the frontline if they have already developed antibodies for the virus.
Widespread testing would also mean other people could technically return to work if it was confirmed they have already had the virus and were immune to catching it again.
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At the daily coronavirus briefing on March 25, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, reiterated the need for UK access to coronavirus antibody tests.
But he acknowledged there is a worldwide demand for the tests, which is causing a shortage.
He said: “We do not have sufficient testing and this is a global problem because basically every country is wanting this new test, for a disease that wasn’t actually being tested for anywhere three months ago.
“So everybody wants this, so there is a global shortage and that’s a bottleneck for us.”
When will coronavirus tests be available?
At the moment, only patients in hospitals are currently being tested for COVID-19 in the UK.
Coronavirus home test kits are not currently available to purchase, but finger-prick antibody tests could soon be rolled out to the public.
The Government has bought millions of antibody tests, however, there will still be a wait for these tests.
Before these tests can be circulated, they will still need to be vetted to assess their accuracy before they can be widely used.
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Professor Sharon Peacock, Director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England (PHE), told the Science and Technology Committee this week the tests would be available in the “near future”.
Professor Peacock added: “Once we are assured that they do work, they will be rolled out into the community.
“Taking the test is a small matter and I anticipate that it will be done by the end of this week.”
Key workers are the first priority for testing and are likely to be the first people to have access to the new tests.
Where can you buy home test kits from?
Coronavirus home test kits are not currently widely available.
However, in the near future, they could be available to purchase from online retailers such as Amazon, or in local chemists like Boots.
Professor Peacock added: “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.”
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