‘Ambitious’ rollout of home testing kits across England

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COV

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo: Pippa Fowles/Crown Copyright/10 Downing Street/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Home testing kits are to be rolled out in England to track the spread of coronavirus in the community.

The Department of Health has announced a series of programmes beginning with self-testing swab kits to 100,000 randomly selected people to see if they have the virus.

The study named the Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (React) will also assess antibody tests to use in the second part of the programme, which will be tested by 300 volunteers known to have had the virus.

The kits detect whether the body could have successfully built up immunity to the virus.

After that, 10,000 volunteers and 5,000 key workers will be invited to read the results taken from a finger prick of blood combined with a dye.

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If the trials are successful, the kits will be rolled out to 100,000 people later in the year which scientists will use to track the spread of the disease through the prevalence of antibodies.

During the pandemic, government ministers have said a number of antibody tests have gone through a validation process but not proven accurate enough to be rolled out for public use.

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At the start of the month, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock pledged to carry out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. As of Tuesday, 52,429 were conducted.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said the findings would inform future action including the development of new tests and treatments.

He said: “Understanding more about the current spread of coronavirus and the prevalence of antibodies is a vital part of our ongoing response to this pandemic.

“This ambitious new testing programme will help us track the rate of the infection now. And, crucially, it will help identify an antibody test that is accurate and easy to use, and which can give us an indication of how many people have already had the infection.”

The research is led by scientists and clinicians at Imperial College London alongside colleagues at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and pollsters Ipsos Mori and will use self-sampling like that used in diabetes medicine.

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