Coronavirus: UK to roll out 10 million 'game changer' antibody tests

"They are distinct but complementary, it's perfectly OK - in fact possibly advantageous - to introduce the one before the other", he said.

Britain on Thursday announced it had signed deals to buy more than 10 million coronavirus antibody tests from pharmaceutical firms Roche and Abbott for distribution to frontline healthcare workers.

"This is an important milestone, and it represents further progress in our national testing program", he added. However, scientists still aren't sure whether having antibodies means long-lasting protection from the disease.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously labelled a reliable antibody test as a "game-changer" as it would allow the government to understand how many people had COVID-19 and if they had developed immunity.

Roche's test, which was cleared by a United Kingdom health authority earlier this month, had previously garnered praise in Germany and the US for its reliability. It won emergency use in the US earlier this month and clearance for countries accepting Europe's CE marking.

The move comes after the British government in March spent $20 million on two million antibody test kits that were produced in China, and were later found to be defunct, according to the New York Times.

AstraZeneca could supply potential coronavirus vaccine from September
They've said the vaccine, which protects against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus , could be available by the fall. Researchers at the University of Oxford are testing the vaccine candidate in humans .

"Once you have the virus the body's immune system develops antibodies against it and it is those antibodies that are detected typically a number of weeks after you've had the virus so it tells you you've had it".

Rowlands also said it was "currently looking at how we could be a part of the testing process while we ensure it is safe to do so". A successful, fast test would help track the spread of the virus.

Non-EU migrants now have to pay the health immigration surcharge, which is £400 per year and set to rise to £624 in October.

Separately, the health department announced that the trial of the new, rapid test to see whether people were carrying the virus had begun in Hampshire.

The finger-prick test on sale from Superdrug, which is manufactured by Abbott and one of the tests approved by Public Health England, enables patients to collect drops of their own blood in a small vial, which is then sent to The Doctor's Laboratory - a laboratory accredited by the UK Accreditation Service - for analysis.

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