Coronavirus antibody tests 'should not be bought by public'

However, admitting that it is not certain that people who have antibodies can not get reinfected with Covid-19, he said that the availability of testing would help towards "developing this critical science, to know the impact of a negative antibody test".

The OptiGene test has been "highly effective" when used in clinical settings, and will now be tried out in care homes, doctors' offices and emergency units, the Health Department said.

"Knowing that you have these antibodies will help us to understand more in the future: if you are at lower risk of catching coronavirus, of dying from coronavirus and transmitting coronavirus". "We will monitor its effectiveness very closely, and if it works, we'll roll it out as soon as we can", he said.

Mr Hancock said the instant tests "could change the way that we control Covid-19 across the country, getting those with negative results back into society as quickly as possible". The devolved nations would be given supplies of the tests to use as they saw fit, Hancock added. Three domestic-made tests are also being assessed.

"This is an important milestone and it represents further progress in our national testing program" Hancock said.

The trial of on-the-spot tests will start in Hampshire, with up to 4,000 people of all ages and backgrounds tested.

The new swab test - which would show whether someone now has the virus - does not need to be sent to a lab.

A smartphone app is now being tested, while the government has also promised to recruit 25,000 tracing staff.

Also speaking at the No 10 briefing, Prof John Newton, who is in charge of the government's testing efforts, said quick test results were a key element. Currently, he said, 90% of results come within 48 hours, and nearly half within 24 hours.

"I wouldn't want people to think just because you test positive for the antibody that it necessarily means that you can do something different in terms of social distancing or the way you behave".

The next phase of lockdown easing could begin by 1 June, but the app, which is being trialled on the Isle of Wight, is not set to be ready for several weeks.

Newton reiterated this, saying the app was an "additional component" which could be "layered on top of the more personal contact tracing" by officials.

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