Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan
Two "game changing" tests for coronavirus and flu – which promise results in 90 minutes – are to be rolled out in hospitals, care homes and laboratories as early as next week.
The swab and DNA tests will help deal with the virus in winter, enabling clinicians and NHS Test and Trace to differentiate between Covid-19, which requires sufferers to undergo specific self-isolation, and other seasonal illnesses, the Department of Health said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock the new technology will mean "more people are going to be able to get tested more quickly, so we can find out where the virus is and tackle it and keep those rates of infection down".
Almost half a million new LamPORE swab tests will be available from next week across adult care settings and laboratories.
Millions more of the tests, supplied by Oxford Nanopore, are set to be rolled out later in the year.
Meanwhile, thousands of DNA test machines, which have already been used in eight London hospitals and can analyse nose swabs, will be rolled out across NHS hospitals from September.
Some 5,000 machines, supplied by DnaNudge, will provide 5.8 million tests in the coming months, the department said.
Watch a demonstration of how the swab test works:
Mr Hancock admitted there had been a "huge challenge" in expanding testing, but said the new tests are "incredibly important" and will "really help" the drive to boost coronavirus testing capacity.
"They will go into the NHS initially, into labs, and of course into care homes and other settings including schools...it is a game changer," business minister Nadhim Zahawi told ITV News.
The tests, developed by "brilliant" British scientists, will make a "big, big difference" in Britain's battle against coronavirus, Mr Zahawi added.
"Just think of the people going into an operating theatre at the minute, where a surgeon needs to know if that person he's operating on has Covid or not - you can now do that in just over an hour - it will make a huge difference," he said.
Health Secretary Hancock added: “Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will provide on-the-spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly.
“The fact these tests can detect flu as well as Covid-19 will be hugely beneficial as we head into winter, so patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others.
“I am hugely grateful for the excellent work done by DnaNudge and Oxford Nanopore to push forward these life-saving innovations in coronavirus testing.”
Professor Chris Toumazou, co-founder of DnaNudge and founder of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “The DnaNudge team worked with incredible speed and skill during the peak of the pandemic to deliver this highly accurate, rapid Covid-19 test, which requires absolutely no laboratory or pipettes and can be deployed anywhere with a direct sample-to-result in around just over an hour.”
Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore, said: “LamPORE has the potential to deliver a highly effective and, crucially, accessible global testing solution, not only for Covid-19 but for a range of other pathogens.”
The new tests were announced after the department denied that it had abandoned its pledge to regularly test care home residents through the summer following a leaked memo from Professor Jane Cummings, the government’s adult social care testing director.
Emily Morgan explains the potential significance of the new test
According to the Sunday Times, Prof Cummings wrote to local authority leaders to inform them that “previously advised timelines for rolling out regular testing in care homes” were being altered because of “unexpected delays”.
Regular testing of residents and staff was meant to have started on July 6 but will now be pushed back until September 7 for older people and those with dementia, the PA news agency understands.
A department spokeswoman confirmed there were issues with “asymptomatic re-testing”.