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Covid-19: Antibody tests available to NHS and care staff from ‘next week’

by Sofia Lind
22 May 2020

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Healthcare professionals in England will get access to antibody tests, starting next week, the health secretary has announced.

Speaking in this evening’s daily coronavirus briefing, Matt Hancock said this comes after deals the Government has signed with Swiss company Roche and American company Abbott.

He said health and care staff, patients and residents would get priority in the rollout of the first batches of testing kits.

Mr Hancock said: ‘I can announce today that we have signed contracts to supply, in the coming months, over 10 million tests from Roche and Abbott.

‘From next week, we will begin rolling these out in a phased way. First to health and care staff, patients and residents.’

This applies to England, with the devolved nations to make their own decisions on prioritisation of the tests that they will be allocated from the UK total.

‘Three further tests are being assessed right now,’ the health secretary added.

Mr Hancock said: ‘This is an important milestone, and it represents further progress in our national testing programme.’

However, admitting that it is not certain that people who have antibodies cannot get reinfected with Covid-19, he said that the availability of testing would help towards ‘developing this critical science, to know the impact of a negative antibody test’.

He said this would mean being able to ‘develop the systems of certification’ so that ‘people who have positive antibodies can be given assurance about what they can safely do’.

And he added: ‘History has shown that understanding an enemy is fundamental to defeating it.’

The news comes as the RCGP urged the health secretary to set out a joined up strategy for the national testing programme, where ‘the right people are tested at the right time’.

The college said that GPs’ confidence in Covid-19 testing is being ‘undermined’ by lengthy waiting times for results and questions around accuracy of results