'Free' coronavirus antibody tests to be available for 'people who need them', No10 confirms

Coronavirus antibody tests will soon be available for free on the NHS, a Downing Street spokesman has said, after a deal on their supply was reached.

The tests, which reveal whether a person has had Covid-19, will be "free for people who need them" and priority will be given to NHS staff and care workers.

NHS England’s national medical director Stephen Powis has warned that antibody tests do not necessarily show whether a person with antibodies has become immune to coronavirus, as is the case with some other viruses.

The deal to supply the UK with the antibody tests follows negotiations between the government and pharmaceutical firm Roche.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out further details at Thursday evening's press conference about a deal on the supply of coronavirus antibody tests.

The only approved tests currently available only show if a person has coronavirus, not if they have previously had it. Credit: PA

Last Thursday, a Downing Street spokesman echoed Boris Johnson’s claim that widespread antibody testing could be a “game changer”.

Deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said it's "good news" to have antibody tests "that we absolutely can rely on".

But he said scientists still needed to discover whether antibodies offered immunity and for how long they persisted.

The only approved tests currently available in the UK only show if a person has coronavirus, not if they have previously had it.

On Wednesday Mr Powis warned people against using commercially available antibody tests, being sold by Superdrug for £69, which had not been approved by Public Health England.

The high street chain says the antibody test is 97.5% sensitive and has 100% specificity, which means it will not give a positive result if you have no coronavirus antibodies.

The test can only be ordered online and a questionnaire must be filled out first, which will then be reviewed by a doctor.

Antibody tests can be purchased from Superdrug. Credit: Superdrug

“The results of your test should be ready within two days after our partner lab receives your sample,” Superdrug said on its website.

“When your results are ready, a message will be sent to your account.”

A prepaid addressed envelope is provided for posting your sample.

Regarding immunity, the retailer emphasises: “Whether antibodies mean immunity is still unclear.

'If you have antibodies, then it is thought that you might have some level of immunity to coronavirus.

“But without further research or conclusive data, we should assume it does not.

“Research on past virus outbreaks has shown that even people with antibodies can get infected again within a year.

“If you do have immunity, it’s also not clear how long that immunity will last.”

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