Three things you need to know about the new coronavirus antibody tests

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read

Top government advisers have warned the issuing of new coronavirus antibody tests which can be used at home will not be a “free-for-all”.

Public Health England (PHE) said on Wednesday that the tests will be available in a matter of days and eventually would be available from outlets such as Amazon and Boots.

The tests will also allow key workers, like doctors and nurses, to go back to work if they have developed antibodies.

Some 3.5 million tests have been bought, and Prof Sharon Peacock, director of PHE’s National Infection Service, they would be available in the “near future”.

This photo taken on March 11, 2020 shows vials displayed during a neutralising antibody test on the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus at a Bio Safety Level (BSL) 3 laboratory at the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) in Seoul. - The COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak has exposed a lack of global research on ways to combat the spread of infectious diseases, with health authorities failing to learn lessons from previous flare-ups, experts said on March 3. The last outbreak of worldwide signficance was the SARS virus scare of the early 2000s, which killed 774 people, and more recently the Mers virus killed more than 850 people, although the outbreak was largely contained to the Middle East. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)
Some 3.5 million coronavirus antibody tests have been bought, though top government advisers warned issuing them won't be a 'free-for-all'. (AFP via Getty Images)

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However, at Wednesday’s daily coronavirus press briefing in Downing Street, Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, moved to temper expectations about the tests.

Here are three things you need to know.

1. First priority is data collection

Sir Patrick said: “The first thing we need to do is collect the information to understand this epidemic.

“It’s not a 3.5 million free-for-all, with no data being collected. We need to answer the critical questions and make sure the right people get tested first in order to allow [NHS] workers to go back.”

Prof Whitty added: “We need to start off by answering that critical question: what proportion of people get this without any symptoms? That has big implications for the way we manage this.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 25, 2020: Prof Chris Whitty, the governmentÍs chief medical adviser, leaves 10 Downing Street on 25 March, 2020 in London, England. The month-long parliamentary Easter recess begins today as the UK is under lockdown imposed to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Prof Chris Whitty leaves Number 10. (Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

2. NHS workers will get the tests first

“We need to make sure we get NHS workers tested,” Prof Whitty said, “to make sure we can work out who is immune to this infection and who isn’t.

“It will basically go out in a graded way from there.”

3. The kits won’t be on Amazon next week

Prof Whitty moved to quash expectations about an imminent release as he said: “I do not think this is something we will suddenly be ordering on the internet next week.

“We need to go through the evaluation, then the first critical uses, and then spread it out from that point of view.”

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