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Coronavirus: Ministers to order biotech firms to prioritise UK home testing in bid to end lockdown

2 min read

The Government will ask “some of the finest scientific minds in the world” to prioritise the UK and build a home testing kit in a bid to end the coronavirus lockdown.

The Times reports that ministers will urge Britain’s biotech industries to put domestic needs ahead of exports in coming up with an antibody test that may allow those who have recovered from he illness to head back to work.

Antibody tests would identify Brits who have already caught the illness and built up immunity, and who are therefore unlikely to catch it again.

The Government has already bought millions of the so-called "antibody tests", but so far none of them have been deemed reliable enough to be used on the population.

A government source told The Times: “We have some of the finest scientific minds in the world working in different areas and we want to bring people together to deliver these tests.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will use a call with the biotech industry on Wednesday to press firms for ideas on ramping up the level of testing, amid criticism of the pace of the UK’s response.

The move comes after Mr Matt Hancock promised 100,000 tests would be carried out every day by the end of the month - a far cry from the 14,006 tests carried out on the most recent daily count.

Around 7,500 NHS workers and their family members have so far been tested, Foreign Secetary Dominic Raab told Tuesday night’s Downing Street press conference.

And Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, acknowledged that a slow start to antigen testing - which identifies those who currently have coronavirus - may have hampered the UK’s fight against Covid-19.

Asked why deaths were rising more slowly in Germany than in other European countries, he said: “We all know that Germany got ahead in terms of its ability to do testing for the virus. There’s a lot to learn from that and we’ve been trying to learn the lessons.”

Professor John Newton, who has been asked to lead the Government’s effort to hit the 100,000-a-day testing target, told the Times there were already “encouraging signs that in the UK our scientists are able to identify antigens and antibodies”, a move he said could pave the way for an “excellent test”.

And he added: “There are testing manufacturers who we think could help with this, which of course would be great if we could have a home-produced test.”

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