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Coronavirus antibody test to be rolled out in fortnight as Boris Johnson eyes Sunday lockdown speech

The anitbody test is seen as a vital tool in easing the lockdown (PA)

2 min read

The first successful coronavirus antibody test is set to be approved by Public Health England this week and could be rolled out within a fortnight.

It comes as Boris Johnson is reportedly lining up a special broadcast on Sunday night to reveal the next steps in the UK’s lockdown.

The new test is considered vital to easing the strict social distancing measures safely and preventing a second spike in the outbreak.

An antibody test is different from the ones currently being used to check whether people currently have Covid-19, as it will detect if a person has previously had the disease, and are therefore likely to now be immune to it.

It could enable those with a positive result to interact with others in confidence they are not placing them at risk.

The testing giant Roche Diagnostics says its kit is accurate enough to be used at scale, and they have enough stock to provide hundreds of thousands per week if it gets the green light.

It has already been cleared for use by the US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday, with UK Government scientists currently evaluating its accuracy.

Previous attempts at creating a successful antibody test have proven unsuccessful, which has preventing ministers from moving on to the next stage of the plan to ease the lockdown while avoiding a second wave of the disease.

But a breakthrough this week could allow Mr Johnson to lay out a timeline to get Brits back to work and help restart the flagging economy.

The Daily Mail reports that the Prime Minister has earmarked a prime-time slot next Sunday evening to broadcast his plans to the nation and unveil the Government's new slogan for the next phase, replacing the “stay at home” message.

The new test, which requires a blood sample to be processed in a laboratory, takes 18-minutes and has an accuracy of 99.8%, according to Roche.

Geoff Twist, its UK & Ireland managing director, said: “Reliable antibody testing is the crucial next step in helping us to understand the spread of the virus and to provide much-needed reassurance to our valued key workers, enabling them to continue providing their vital support.

“More than ever, it is critical that industry works in collaboration with the NHS to help alleviate pressures and provide a solution, and we are extremely proud to be able to deliver our high quality antibody test, which will lead to greater confidence as we move into the next phase.”

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