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A 100% accurate antibody test regarded by Boris Johnson as a coronavirus lockdown “game changer” will “certainly” be available on the NHS, Downing Street has said.
The government is, however, still in talks with Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, which developed the Covid-19 serology test, over an order.
Different to tests which check for presence of the virus, the antibodies tests can detect if a person has ever had the disease, which could mean they are potentially immune.
A reliable test for antibodies could pave the way for people to be issued with “immunity passports” and could be key to returning people to work as lockdown restrictions are eased.
Public Health England this week approved the antibody test for use saying it has 100% accuracy for the virus.
On Thursday, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said, while the government was still in negotiations with Roche, the tests would be available for free.
They said: “We have talked about, in the future, the potential for some kind of health certificate related to whether or not you have antibodies.
“But we need a better understanding of how the immune system responds to the virus and the length and level of immunity following infection to better understand the potential of the test.”
The spokesperson also echoed Johnson’s claim that widespread antibody testing could be a “game changer”.
“We still need to work to understand its full potential but this is clearly an important step forward and it does continue to have the potential to be a game changer, as the PM set out,” they said.
The findings on the serology test by PHE this weel have been hailed as a “very positive development” in combating the coronavirus outbreak.
Professor John Newton, national coordinator of the UK Coronavirus Testing Programme, said: “We were confident that good quality antibody tests would become available when they were needed.
“Last week, scientific experts at PHE Porton Down carried out an independent evaluation of the new Roche Sars-CoV-2 serology assay in record time, concluding that it is a highly specific assay with specificity of 100%.
“This is a very positive development because such a highly specific antibody test is a very reliable marker of past infection.
“This in turn may indicate some immunity to future infection although the extent to which the presence of anti-bodies indicates immunity remains unclear.”