A 15-minute coronavirus antibody test could be available for NHS workers soon.
The tests were hailed as “game changers” by the prime minister Boris Johnson at a press conference last week.
On Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Professor Chris Whitty dismissed claims made earlier by Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England (PHE), who said members of the public would be able to buy the tests next week.
She said 3.5 million tests – which will tell people whether they have had the virus – would be made available and distributed via Amazon and in places like Boots.
But Prof Whitty said members of the public would not be buying these tests via the internet.
He stressed frontline NHS workers would need the tests first so they could get back to work if they have had the virus.
It is thought people who have recovered from Covid-19 have permanent or temporary immunity from the infection.
Earlier Prof Peacock explained a small number of tests would be tested in a laboratory before being distributed via Amazon and in places like Boots.
She said: “Once we are assured that they do work, they will be rolled out into the community.
“Testing the test is a small matter, and I anticipate that it will be done by the end of this week.
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“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.”
Asked whether this meant it would be available in a number of days, rather than weeks or months, she said “absolutely”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Tuesday 3.5 million antibody tests had been ordered.
He said: “I understand why NHS staff, in particular, and others across public service are so keen to get the testing ramped up, that we need to see and that we are undertaking.
“Of course it really matters for getting people getting back to work, so we have now bought 3.5 million antibody tests.
“That will allow people to see whether they have had the virus and are immune to it and then can get back to work.”
Healthcare companies Novacyt and Yourgene Health said on Wednesday they would be teaming up to produce coronavirus testing products in the United Kingdom.
Yourgene’s manufacturing facility in Manchester will be used to expand Novacyt’s production capacity of the COVID-19 test.
The first batches of the critical components are expected to be shipped from the Manchester site to Novacyt’s Primerdesign unit in Southampton over the next few weeks.
“As the global demand for our COVID-19 test continues to increase, we are pleased to have rapidly established a relationship with the expert team at Yourgene to further expand our manufacturing capacity,” Novacyt CEO Graham Mullis said.