Government secures 20 million 'game-changing' 15-minute Covid swabs

Boost for Boris’s testing ‘moonshot’ as government secures 20 million ‘game-changing’ 15-minute swab kits and starts rolling them out to hospital staff

  • Government secured 20million antigen tests validated by Public Health England 
  • The ‘game changing’ swab kit said to provide 100% specificity in 15 minutes
  • Tests to be used regularly on hospital staff to help pick up asymptomatic cases

The government has secured up to 20 million ‘game changing’ 15-minute testing kits to be fast-tracked to the frontline of the fight against Covid-19.

The Innova Sars-Cov-2 Antigen Test, made by Innova Tried and Tested, is less complicated than the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, meaning it does not need to be sent to a laboratory.

It uses lateral flow technology to provide rapid results that could help open up places such as airports, theatres other public areas.

The government has secured up to 20 million ‘game changing’ 15-minute testing kits to be fast-tracked to the frontline of the fight against Covid-19. Pictured: The Innova Sars-Cov-2 Antigen Test, which is said to have shown a 100 per cent specificity

According to The Daily Telegraph, the Government has struck a deal to purchase millions of kits, after they were validated at Public Health England’s Porton Down facility.

The tests will be used to perform regular tests on hospital staff in the hope of picking up asymptomatic cases which are blamed for much of the spread of the virus.

Trials will also be extended in Tier Three lockdown areas – currently Merseyside and Lancashire – where care homes, schools and universities will also have access.

Downing Street said yesterday that seven hospitals across the country are trialling two different tests, which can produce results in less than an hour without the need for laboratory processing. 

The tests will be used to perform regular tests on hospital staff in the hope of picking up asymptomatic cases which are blamed for much of the spread of the virus (stock photo)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday said the tests were showing ‘real promise’ – and revealed the government is investing in manufacturing capacity to produce them in the UK.

He said that if the trials prove successful it would ‘give us hope on the path back to normal life’.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday described the development was ‘potentially the most significant news on the fight against the virus we have heard for many, many weeks.’ The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Boris Johnson was encouraged by the progress.

The spokesman added: ‘There are pilots taking place in the worst-affected regions, so that includes the North West, the North East and Yorkshire.

‘Hospitals in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Basingstoke and Southampton will be able to test asymptomatic NHS staff.’ Three of them – Southampton, Manchester and Basingstoke – are already able to start testing staff while the other four will be able to shortly.

The spokesman said new tests will also go to ‘care homes, schools and universities in the areas which have been hardest hit.’ Those tests can give a result in ‘potentially significantly less than an hour’ and have been compared to home pregnancy tests because of their ease of use.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday said the tests were showing ‘real promise’ – and revealed the government is investing in manufacturing capacity to produce them in the UK

The so-called ‘lateral flow’ tests could produce results in as little as 15 minutes, potentially reducing the need for contact tracing if they were conducted regularly.

A source said the £15 test had shown 100 per cent specificity – the ability to correctly identify a positive sample; and 96 per cent sensitivity – the ability to correctly identify a negative sample.

Anyone testing positive will have to have the result confirmed by a conventional swab test before they are asked to isolate.

The new tests could eventually be mass produced to provide millions of units per day. Ministers hope that in the New Year they could be used to allow some businesses, including theatres and sports stadiums to reopen without social distancing. 

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