Portable coronavirus kit to test NHS staff "available in weeks", says Norwich scientist

A portable coronavirus test kit that takes just 50 minutes from sample to result could be available for use on NHS staff within weeks, a scientist has said.

The kit, which works from a throat swab sample, is a molecular test to establish if a person currently has Covid-19.

It could be used in a hospital anteroom, processing 16 samples at a time and displaying the result on a smartphone.

Dr Justin O'Grady, research group leader at the Quadram Institute in Norwich, said the test kit aims to help self-isolating medical staff return to work as quickly as possible. Also, he said the tool will ensure those at work are not spreading the virus.

Dr O'Grady, who's an associate at the University of East Anglia, started developing the kit earlier this month with microbiologist Jonathan Edgeworth at Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Foundation Trust in London.

It is hoped that a pilot study will begin to test staff at St Thomas' Hospital by the middle of next week, Dr O'Grady said. The hospital will then "rapidly make a decision whether that's working well".

He hopes to the test will be implemented in hospitals in "two weeks or so".

"We have to be careful of health and safety and we have to be sure we have a test that performs to a certain standard but these are extraordinary times so we would try to do that and get that process validated as quickly as we could."

He said a semi-skilled healthcare professional would run the tests, and they could be carried out near to patients.

The work is currently being funded by various existing grants within departments, with no official funding at present.