Rapid testing could get UK 'back to normal by Christmas'

‘Back to normal by CHRISTMAS’: Matt Hancock claims if new £500m mass testing regime works UK could get the ‘happy and loving’ festivities they long for but Government is RATIONING swab tests to focus on high-risk areas

  • Health Secretary said mass regular testing is ‘best shot’ at ending distancing
  • He said he hoped this could happen by winter but refused to put a date on it
  • The huge investment is a boost to Government’s ‘Operation Moon Shot’  
  • Even people who don’t feel ill will be tested on the spot in pilot scheme 
  • ‘Lab in a van’ facilities will be able to show positive or negative in just 20 minutes
  • Government today announced it is opening a new lab to process 50,000 per day

The UK could get back to normal by Christmas if the rapid coronavirus testing being trialled by the Government is successful, Matt Hancock said today.

The Health Secretary, who has announced a £500million investment in a mass on-the-spot saliva testing regime, said it was the ‘best shot’ at ending social distancing.

Although treatments for the virus are improving, unless a vaccine is found it still cannot be cured or prevented completely.

So keeping track of the bug and squashing it out of communities is the only way to prevent more people ending up in hospital and dying.

When asked about ending social distancing, Mr Hancock said on BBC Radio 4 this morning: ‘I hope that if this mass testing regime comes off, if the new technologies we’re working so hard on work, or we manage to get a vaccine between now and then – which we can’t rule out – then I hope we can have the happy and loving Christmas that people yearn for.’

However as the Health Secretary promises testing will get Britain out of its current situation, the official testing regime is rationing swabs and making some people travel more than 100 miles to get them.

The tests – of which around 180,000 are done each day – are being used more in areas that are in local lockdowns or at risk of facing extra restrictions.

As a result, people who feel unwell in less badly-affected areas of the country are struggling to access the swabs and some report being told to drive for hours to centres in other cities, counties or even countries. 

In a bid to speed up testing, the Department of Health today announced it was opening a new laboratory in Loughborough that will be capable of processing 50,000 tests per day. 

But NHS Test & Trace data today showed the system is still floundering and was last week unable to reach almost a third of people who had been in contact with an infected person.

And home tests – the only ones available for people being told to travel dozens of miles by the booking system – are now taking an average three days to return results.

One expert said Mr Hancock’s drive for fast testing would be ‘useless’ if the contact tracing system didn’t work, saying the tests needed to be part of a ‘whole system’.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today announced the Government is investing £500million in mass rapid testing for the coronavirus

Testing has increased vastly from no more than 13,000 tests per day at the start of April to around 150,000 in July and 200,000 in August

Britons who show Covid symptoms can apply for drive-through tests, but some have revealed they are directed to centres more than 100 miles away (Pictured: A family member administers a self-test to a child at a station in Leicester)

In a day of developments in Britain’s coronavirus testing strategy:

  • NHS Test & Trace failed to reach almost a third of at-risk contacts of infected patients last week, its worst performance so far;
  • The time taken to receive a result for a home test has stretched to three days, on average;
  • Department of Health has announced a new ‘lighthouse’ national laboratory, which will be capable of processing 50,000 tests per day by the end of 2020, will open this month near Loughborough; 
  • A BBC investigation found the booking system for swab tests is directing people to swab centres dozens of miles from their homes as testing is centred around areas with rising infection rates;
  • The British Medical Association said it was ‘ludicrous’ that people are struggling to book same-day tests near their homes. 

The Health Secretary has defended the current testing system and said: ‘At the moment the system works well. Of course there are operational challenges from time to time but it works well.

‘And we’re finding a higher and higher proportion of people in the country who have coronavirus and getting them tests so they can be looked after.

PEOPLE BEING DIRECTED TO TESTING STATIONS 100+ MILES AWAY IS ‘LUDICROUS’, DOCTORS SAY 

The British Medical Association today said it was ‘ludicrous’ that the coronavirus test booking system is directing people to centres dozens or even hundreds of miles away from their homes. 

People report being instructed to drive dozens of miles, some of them more than 100 miles or even from Suffolk to Scotland, to their closest available same-day test.

An investigation by the BBC found that the system routinely tried to direct people to testing centres tens or hundreds of miles from their homes.

London postcodes were directed to Cardiff, it found, while someone in Devon might have to travel more than 100 miles to Wales, and a postcode in the Lake District redirected to a test centre in Scotland.

One hapless man, David Llewellyn, told the broadcaster he was told to go to a centre near Blackburn, near Manchester, more than 200 miles from his home in Suffolk.

And a MailOnline investigation discovered testing centres in Twickenham, Heathrow and Greenwich were practically empty despite callers being told no slots were unavailable. 

A number of people in the capital needing swabs have now come forward to complain they had been told none could be taken in the city.

Dr Peter English, chair of public health at the British Medical Association, said: ‘It’s ludicrous that people are being directed so far from their homes for testing. 

‘In some cases, it means driving for three hours – and back – which is completely inappropriate at the best of times, let alone for someone who may be ill with Covid-19 symptoms. Travelling such distances are expensive, and that’s if individuals have access to a car at all.’

Health Secretary acknowledged the system was facing ‘operational challenges’ but said it was ‘working well’ overall. 

‘But absolutely we need to roll out more testing – we have done throughout this crisis and today’s another step in solving some of those problems with the existing technology.’

This morning he said the rapid testing was Britain’s best chance at getting back to normal. 

The Government has announced it is pouring £500million into trialling and manufacturing tests that can be done on the spot using people’s saliva.

These can give a positive or negative result in just 20 minutes, compared to the current lab-based swabs that can take days to complete.

Main pilots of the portable ‘lab in a van’ tests will take place in Salford, Southampton in Hampshire. 

Mr Hancock refused to put a date on when the tests would be available more widely to people around the UK but he said it would be ‘in the coming weeks and months’, appearing to be planning for them to be in use by the winter.

Experts say that winter is likely to bring a resurgence in cases, hospitalisations and deaths caused by Covid-19 because viruses tend to spread more effectively in colder weather and the country will also have to deal with the flu at the same time.

On Radio 4 this morning the Health Secretary said: ‘Short of a vaccine this is the best chance we have of reducing social distancing whilst controlling the virus, especially with winter coming with all the challenges that brings.’

He said that hoped the testing would allow people to have a ‘happy and loving Christmas’ with their friends and family.

But cautioned: ‘We will of course do everything we can to keep people safe. We can’t say that absolutely yet. 

‘But let us all try to just pull together, do the social distancing, back all these new innovative technologies that scientists are coming up with. And then, just maybe, we can have that Christmas that everybody wants to see.’   

The £500 million funding package will support trials of a 20-minute Covid-19 test and efforts to explore the benefits of repeatedly testing people for the virus.

Money will go towards launching new community-wide repeat population testing trial in Salford, Greater Manchester.

Existing trials in Southampton and Hampshire, using a no-swab saliva test and a rapid 20-minute test, will also be expanded through the new funding. 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said saliva-based testing will also be used in the pilot in Salford, which will involve the city council and other local partners.

A select number of residents will be invited for a weekly test, with the pilot performing up to 250 tests a day.

But tests on their own won’t be enough to fix the problem, one scientist warned.

Dr Joshua Moon, a researcher at the University of Sussex’s Business School, said: ‘Rapid tests are a good thing in general and, if they have the same reliability and accuracy as the PCR test, have the potential to be of real benefit to the response.

‘The key, however, is to remember that these tests exist within a whole system of response rather than being the sole component.

‘Having a rapid test is useless if positive cases can’t or won’t isolate because support and enforcement is absent or if contacts can’t be identified because the tracing system is overwhelmed.

‘As such, while a rapid test is a useful thing to have, it needs to be supported by a whole system of policies and strategies around contact tracing, case and contact isolation, support for those self-isolating, and evaluation of the system itself to ensure better functioning as the pandemic continues.’ 

The initial focus of the Government project will be on high-footfall areas of Salford, such as shopping centres, public transport and places of worship.

The project’s aim is to identify positive coronavirus cases early, including for those with no or minor symptoms, so people can self-isolate.

‘The second use of testing,’ Mr Hancock added on Radio 4 this morning, ‘is to remove some of the restrictions that we currenrtly have. 

‘Because if you test and you test negative, you may catch the virus in a few days’ time but we know that you’re negative now. And if we can get to the point where regular testing is possible then you’re pretty confident that you don’t have it.

‘At the same time we do catch those positive cases, so that allows people more freedom and it allows us to have the confidence to be able to lift some of the social distancing measures and allow people to get back to normal, get back to the things they love, confident that they’re not spreading the virus.’

The positivity rate of coronavirus tests in the UK has remained flat since June, showing that the proportion of people testing positive is not changing drastically – this suggests the rising number of cases is linked to the rising number of tests

However, as the Government begins its trials of tests that it hopes will become widespread, members of the public are still trying to get hold of drive-through swab tests that have been running for months.

Even this service does not seem to be working well.

TEST & TRACE FAILED TO REACH A THIRD OF AT-RISK CONTACTS LAST WEEK

Almost a third of contacts of Covid-19 cases were not reached by the NHS Test and Trace system last week, data shows, which was the lowest since the system launched in May.

A total of 31,388 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who has tested positive between 20 August and 26 August.

Only 69.4 per cent of those were reached and told to self-isolate, down from 77.1 per cent in the previous week.

The report from the Department of Health and Social care said the reduction is largely due to ‘non-complex cases’, which have a higher proportion of contacts who are unable to be reached.

Non-complex cases are those which are not related to an outbreak, and are handled by call centres or online.

Just 59.8 per cent of close contacts have been reached and asked to self-isolate when handled by those teams.

In comparison, complex cases, managed predominantly by local health teams, are consistently more likely to be reached.

This week, 97.3 per cent of contacts handled by local health protection teams were reached and asked to self-isolate.

Figures published today also show it takes more an average of three and a half days for a home-test result to come back, which has been increasing for several weeks.

The average person who takes a home test kit, which can be ordered online, won’t get their result back for 86 hours, more than the 76 hours the week prior.

People report being instructed to drive dozens of miles, some of them more than 100 miles or even from Suffolk to Scotland, to their closest available same-day test.

An investigation by the BBC found that the system routinely tried to direct people to testing centres tens or hundreds of miles from their homes.

London postcodes were directed to Cardiff, it found, while someone in Devon might have to travel more than 100 miles to Wales, and a postcode in the Lake District redirected to a test centre in Scotland.

One hapless man, David Llewellyn, told the broadcaster he was told to go to a centre near Blackburn, near Manchester, from his home in Suffolk.

Mr Llewellyn said: ‘I thought I’d entered my home location incorrectly so went through the booking process again, only to get the same location for testing.

‘Needless to say I have subsequently ordered a home testing kit, which despite three automated email reminders to take the test has yet to arrive. I’d do the test if I had it.’ 

A MailOnline investigation discovered testing centres in Twickenham, Heathrow and Greenwich were practically empty despite callers being told no slots were unavailable. 

A number of people in the capital needing swabs have now come forward to complain they had been told none could be taken in the city.

One, who landed back in the UK from a holiday abroad on Saturday, was told she had to call 119 to organise a test after her friend tested positive.

She said: ‘I was told there were no tests in the whole of London and to call back at 8pm.

‘The same thing happened when I called back at 8pm – they told me the closest test I could get was 80 miles away, despite living in the capital city.

‘I ended up calling four times and trying to get an appointment and was told the same thing each time. Three out of the four times I was told they didn’t even have any home testing kits to send me. 

‘I ended up hiring a car and just turning up to the Twickenham testing centre to see if I could chance it.

‘It was completely empty and despite being told four times that I couldn’t get a test, I was tested straight away without an appointment or a wait.’ 

The British Medical Association today said it was ‘ludicrous’ that this was happening in the testing system.

Dr Peter English, chair of public health at the union, said: ‘It’s ludicrous that people are being directed so far from their homes for testing. 

‘In some cases, it means driving for three hours – and back – which is completely inappropriate at the best of times, let alone for someone who may be ill with Covid-19 symptoms. Travelling such distances are expensive, and that’s if individuals have access to a car at all.

Twickenham’s testing centre was empty despite callers being told no tests were available

Heathrow’s testing facility had a few cars come through but did not seem to be used fully

At Greenwich there were very few visitors throughout the whole of Tuesday

‘This is an issue doctors are incredibly concerned about – with understandably worried patients contacting them for advice about what they can do when told to travel so far. 

‘Furthermore, effective testing relies on widespread take-up among the public, and being directed so far from home will be a huge disincentive to people who need to get tested.

‘We understand there is limited testing capacity, but the logic of moving so much of it away from areas with low infection rates is flawed – as it means the programme is less likely to identify new spikes early, allowing swift action to be taken.’ 

JEREMY HUNT CALLS FOR MASS TESTING IN SCHOOLS

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for secondary school teachers to be regularly tested for Covid-19 to improve parent confidence that classrooms are virus-free.

The Commons Health Committee chairman backed a call from epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, whose early coronavirus mortality modelling helped influence the Government decision to instigate the lockdown in March, for ‘rapid testing’ in schools. 

His comments came as pupils returned to school for the start of the new academic year, the first time some of them had been in class since the lockdown was introduced six months ago.

The ex-cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4: ‘We know something now we didn’t know back in January, which is that about 70 per cent of the people who transmit coronavirus don’t have any symptoms at all, and so that makes it much harder to get public consent for things like sending people back to school or going back to offices and so on, because it is a silent transmitter and even a silent killer sometimes.

‘The way you get round that is by having very quick, very effective, large-scale testing.

‘I think, in fairness to the Government, it is heading in this direction, but we could be much more systematic about it if we really wanted to raise confidence.

‘If, for example, we said that every secondary school teacher was going to be tested twice a week, then that would really give people confidence that if they were sending their kids back to school, they weren’t sending them into a zone where they might pick up the virus.’

Defending the testing system – the drive-through centres still account for the majority of swabs taken – Mr Hancock said it is ‘working well’ and urged people to keep using it.

Tests are required in greater numbers in areas that are receiving special support because they have high infection rates, and more seem to be getting directed to these places.

This may come at the expense of smaller, less-affected places having to wait longer to get tested.

Despite this, Mr Hancock has urged people still to get tested if they’re ill and said most people will not have to travel far. 

He said on BBC Breakfast: ‘If you have symptoms, please come forward and get a test. It is straightforward, it is easy and the vast majority of people get one close to their home.’

He said the issue with people arranging appointments close to home was part of the reason why the Government was investing in trials of quicker Covid-19 tests. 

One professor said the change should have been made over the summer when the country was ‘relatively Covid-secure’.

Professor Alan McNally, from the University of Birmingham, told the Today programme: ‘I don’t think the time is right. I think the time was right to think about scaling up testing to the wider community and asymptomatic testing over the summer when we were relatively Covid-secure, knowing that autumn and winter would come.

‘Ideally we would be far more advanced in our ability to handle what we’re already beginning to see, an increase in requirement for Covid testing and respiratory infection testing.’             

Results from the rapid test trials will inform how regular repeat community testing could be scaled up across the country.

In Southampton, the second phase of a no-swab saliva test pilot is due to begin this week.

It will see a weekly testing model trialled with more than 2,100 pupils and staff across four schools.

The work is led by a partnership of the University of Southampton, Southampton City Council and the NHS.

Meanwhile in Hampshire the pilot of a rapid 20-minute coronavirus test will be expanded ‘to further explore the applications of mobile testing in different settings’, the DHSC said.

Funding will also be used to extend capacity for existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing currently being used in the UK. 

Scientists have welcomed the initiative that cold see rapid on-the-spot tests brought into use in Britain, but say the infrastructure around it must be improved to keep pace. 

Data from NHS Test & Trace today showed that the system of tracking down those at risk is still struggling. 

£5 RAPID TESTS ALREADY BEING EVALUATED BY PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

Rapid pregnancy-style tests for Covid-19 could be approved within weeks, according to a leading scientist.

Sir John Bell, an Oxford University scientist and key Government adviser, said the cheap devices were currently being assessed by scientists at Public Health England.

He claimed they could be sold on Amazon or Boots for as little as £5 if they are proven to be over 90 per cent accurate. 

Professor Bell said the devices, that are ‘no larger than a teacup’, plug into a socket in the wall and process swabs within an hour.

One from the US which is currently under review is able to process a sample in the time it would take for a person to have a shower or eat their breakfast, he claimed. 

The UK is currently relying on PCR swab tests which take at least 24 hours to turnaround after being sent to a laboratory. 

Home test kits are already part of the Government’s testing scheme but they still need to be sent to the laboratory. Less than seven per cent come back in the 24-hour target time. 

There are at least four rapid tests being trialled in hospitals and care homes. But they are clunky and not designed to be taken at home. 

Sir John, a regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, believes mass screening will become possible with rapid home kit tests.  

Almost a third of contacts of Covid-19 cases are not being reached by the NHS Test and Trace system, data shows, the lowest since the system launched in May.

A total of 31,388 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who has tested positive between 20 August and 26 August.

Only 69.4 per cent of those were reached and told to self-isolate, down from 77.1 per cent in the previous week.

The report from the Department of Health and Social care said the reduction is largely due to ‘non-complex cases’, which have a higher proportion of contacts who are unable to be reached.

Non-complex cases are those which are not related to an outbreak, and are handled by call centres or online.

Just 59.8 per cent of close contacts have been reached and asked to self-isolate when handled by those teams.

In comparison, complex cases, managed predominantly by local health teams, are consistently more likely to be reached.

This week, 97.3 per cent of contacts handled by local health protection teams were reached and asked to self-isolate.

It follows Matt Hancock’s claims that the UK is in the ‘top tranche’ of test and trace systems that are in place around the world.

Figures published today also show it takes more an average of three and a half days for a home-test result to come back, which has been increasing for several weeks.

The average person who takes a home test kit, which can be ordered online, won’t get their result back for 86 hours, more than the 76 hours the week prior.

Satellite test centres — places like hospitals and care homes that urgently need results – also saw the median time for a result turnaround increase, from 65 hours to 76 hours.

But things are finally starting to improve at regional test sites, like drive throughs. It takes 24 hours on average to get a result back.

For all routes combined, 24.3 per cent of tests from all test sites were received within 24 hours of a test being taken. It’s an increase on the 20 per cent the previous week, but still nothing near Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 100 per cent pledge in June.

Last week the number of Covid-19 positive cases reached by the NHS dropped to the lowest level since the system was launched, of 75.2 per cent.

But in the week to August 26, this bumped up to 81.4 per cent, nearing the best performance of 82.8 per cent in the week ending July 22.

Figures show positive cases have increased by six per cent. Some 6,732 got a positive result in the week to August 26 compared with 6,115 and 6,656 in the weeks prior.

Testing has only been expanded by one per cent, suggesting there is an increase in prevalence of the coronavirus, and not just testing.

The Government released figures today showing 186,500 tests had been carried out today 

The latest numbers showed that a further 1,295 people have now tested positive for the virus

WHAT RAPID COVID TESTS COULD BE USED IN BRITAIN AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

The Department of Health today revealed it is investing £500million in getting rapid on-the-spot coronavirus tests into public use in its battle against Covid-19. 

Trials in Salford, Southampton and Hampshire will blaze the trail for the tests, which could change the way people live with coronavirus.

Mr Hancock suggested that if regular, mass testing can come as a result of these devices, it would be the country’s ‘best shot’ at spelling the end of social distancing rules in the absence of a vaccine. 

Tests made by the companies Oxford Nanopore (LamPORE technology), Optigene and DNANudge are all being trialled by the British Government on members of the public.

Meanwhile, NHS hospitals are using a swab test-processing machine called the SAMBA II and Public Health England is evaluating kits made in the style of pregnancy tests which could become available in the future.   

MailOnline takes a look at some of the tech that could be used in the UK:

LamPORE – saliva sample testing in 90 minutes

The small LamPORE test could be deployed in airports, offices, schools, pubs and restaurants – bringing testing to the bulk of the population 

Sample type: Saliva or nasal swab

Turnaround time: 90 minutes

Tests per day: 2,000 (small); 15,000 (large)

Accuracy: 99% (claimed)

Price: Unknown (UK has bought at least 450,000)

Biotech company Oxford Nanopore has developed a portable swab-recording device called LamPORE, which can determine whether a user has Covid in the space of an hour-and-a-half.

The larger device is more suitable for hospitals and airports 

The machines take 90 minutes to give a result and can process around 30,000 samples a day.

It involves taking a sample of saliva, unlike existing methods which require invasive and difficult nose and throat swabs. 

The LamPORE device, which also comes in a desktop version which is about the size of a printer, uses electronic means to record and analyse the samples.

Each test is given a barcode which is individually assessed before returning back with the result – without having to wait for swabs to be sent to the laboratory.

The portable version of the LamPORE device is the same size as a CD player. 

Ministers have ordered 450,000 of the tests, which are now being trialled in Salford and Southampton. Millions more are due to be rolled out later in the year if they prove to be effective.

The Salford trial will invite people in the community to come for weekly tests using a new saliva Covid-19 test that produces results in under an hour and a half.

The pilot will begin with a select number of participants and up to 250 tests a day, to be scaled to the whole area. 

Initially, the pilot will focus on specific high footfall locations in the city, which includes retail, public services, transport and faith spaces. 

Phase two of the no-swab saliva test pilot in Southampton will also start this week. 

The second phase of the pilot will trial the weekly testing model in educational settings, with participation from staff and students at the University of Southampton and four Southampton schools. 

Over 2,100 pupils and staff across four schools will be invited to have a test as part of the pilot, which is led by a partnership of the University of Southampton, Southampton City Council and the NHS.

The makers of the test have not revealed how accurate it is, and the Government has refused to divulge that information, too.  

Mr Hancock said of the tests: ‘Oxford Nanopore’s new rapid LamPORE tests will benefit thousands of people with fast and accurate test results, removing uncertainty and breaking chains of transmission quickly and safely.

‘I am hugely grateful for the fantastic work Oxford Nanopore have done to push forward this important innovation in coronavirus testing.’

OptiGene – swab results in 20 minutes

Sussex-based biomedical company OptiGene has created a nasal and throat swab test that takes just 20 minutes to diagnose people 

Sample type: Nasal & throat swab, or saliva

Turnaround time: 20 minutes

Tests per day: 300 per hour

Accuracy: 97%

Price: Unknown

Sussex-based biomedical company OptiGene has created a nasal and throat swab test that takes just 20 minutes to diagnose people.

Once swabs have been collected from patients, the samples are loaded into the devices, known as the Genie HT, which look for tiny traces of the virus in their DNA.  

The machines amplify the DNA billions of times chemically so they can detect the virus with extreme sensitivity. They can also be used with saliva samples.

The device has proven to be just as accurate as PCR swabs, which take days to give results, in clinical trials by Public Health England. 

In contrast to the widely used PCR tests, which need be processed at different temperatures, the Genie HT does not require a change in temperature to detect results. 

It is currently being trialled by the Government on thousands in A&E departments, GP coronavirus testing hubs and care homes across Hampshire, and will be rolled out in the new testing programmes in Salford and Southampton.

Four thousand people of all ages have been involved in the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust trial.

A study done during that trial Hampshire have found the test to be 97 per cent sensitive, meaning it can find 97 out of 100 positive cases, and 99 per cent specific, meaning only one in 100 people would get a false positive result.  

DNANudge – 75 minutes to a result from a nostril swab

One of the new test kits, made by London-based DNANudge, scours DNA in nose swabs and takes just 75 minute

Sample type: Nostril 

Turnaround time: 75 minutes

Tests per day: 15 

Accuracy: 98%

Price: £28 each on average (UK paid £161million for 5.8m tests including 5,000 machines)

The DNANudge test can detect the virus from just a nostril sample – much less invasive than some throat swabs.

Once a swab is taken, it’s inserted into a handheld reader that provides results within just 75 minutes. 

The DnaNudge has a sensitivity of over 98 per cent – meaning it can pick up on mild and asymptomatic cases – and specificity of 100 per cent.

The 100 per cent specificity means it can tell the difference between a person who doesn’t have the disease at all and a sample which wasn’t taken properly, meaning there aren’t any false negatives.

After successful trials on 500 patients in London hospitals, the ‘lab in a cartridge’ device was approved for clinical use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) at the end of April.

The Government has purchased at least 5,000 of the DNANudge machines, which can process up to 15 tests a day, to provide six million tests in the coming months.

The test, developed by Imperial College London’s Chris Toumazou, is based on the design of a DNA test and can give a result in just over an hour, significantly cutting down on the 48-hour wait for a laboratory diagnosis. 

Matt Hancock has previously said about the machines: ‘By quickly detecting whether the virus is present in an individual, this new test is an important step forward in point of care testing which means that positive cases can be identified and contained quickly and safely. 

‘I am hugely grateful to DnaNudge and their incredible work to innovate coronavirus testing, which will mean we can test millions more people in the coming months.’          

SAMBA II – £30-a-go swab analyser is 99% accurate

The SAMBA II was created by  University of Cambridge spin-off company Diagnostics for the Real World

Sample type: Nose and throat swab 

Turnaround time: 90 minutes

Tests per day: 15

Accuracy: 99%

Price: £30 per test

 The SAMBA II has shown to be almost 99 per cent accurate at analysing swabs and can give a result in just 90 minutes.

The portable machine can diagnose Covid-19 in less than 90 minutes, but only has the capacity to process 15 tests a day.

It was developed by University of Cambridge spin-off company Diagnostics for the Real World.

It scours DNA in throat and nose swabs to detect the virus.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge has been trialling the device since April.

They have shown to be so effective that the hospital switched nearly all of its coronavirus testing from standard lab tests to the Samba machines in May.

A Samba test, costing approximately £30 per sample, would outweigh the cost of each additional bed day at around £200 ‘many times over’, the team said.

The tests have been validated at the Public Health England, Cambridge in 102 patient samples and shown to have 98.7 per cent sensitivity and 100 per cent specificity.

The machines are already used to diagnose other blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.

Randox – portable swab tester saves on lab time

Randox’s portable antigen test, called the Vivalytic, can process five swabs an hour

Sample type: Nose and throat swab 

Turnaround time: 12 minutes 

Tests per day: Five per hour

Accuracy: Unknown 

Price: Unknown

 The Government partnered with Northern Irish firm Randox in April to ramp up testing in the nation. 

Randox’s portable antigen test, called the Vivalytic, can process five swabs an hour. These are likely to be the same type of swabs currently used – that go in the nose and mouth – but processed at speed.

It has been scaled up across multiple hospitals in Northern Ireland.

The device is also used at the point of care and operated by a healthcare professional.

Randox says its device works by ‘identifying SARS-CoV-2 and differentiating it from nine other respiratory infections with similar symptoms, including influenza and all known coronaviruses’. 

The devices are still being trialled.

In July, 750,000 swabs were recalled after they failed to meet the required safety standards. Randox said the issue was with one of its suppliers of its swabs.

The machines which process the swabs have not been deemed unsafe. 

Pregnancy test-style kits – home tests for £5 being checked by PHE 

Sir John Bell, an Oxford University scientist and key Government adviser, said cheap pregnancy-style tests devices were currently being assessed by scientists at Public Health England

Rapid tests for Covid-19 which give a diagnosis in minutes could be approved within weeks, according to a leading scientist.

Sir John Bell, an Oxford University scientist and key Government adviser, said the cheap devices were currently being assessed by scientists at Public Health England.

He did not reveal which tests have been selected for inspection by officials, but mentioned a ‘lovely test from the US’ being brought in. 

He claimed they could be sold on Amazon or Boots for as little as £5 if they are proven to be over 90 per cent accurate. 

Professor Bell said the devices, that are ‘no larger than a teacup’, plug into a socket in the wall and process swabs within an hour.

One from the US which is currently under review is able to process a sample in the time it would take for a person to have a shower or eat their breakfast, he claimed.  

Sir John said scientists at Porton Down – government run laboratories in Salisbury, Wiltshire, are currently assessing rapid antigen tests.

Intelligent Fingerprinting – experimental kit that uses sweat

The rapid test  scours sweat for the virus and takes just 10 minutes

This sweat-testing kit is not a confirmed part of the UK Government’s considerations but has potential as a simple alternative to swab testing. 

British diagnostics firm Intelligent Fingerprinting and Imperial College London joined forces to develop a rapid test that scours sweat for the virus.

The test is said to take just 10 minutes to produce a diagnosis. It works by collecting fingerprint sweat onto a small test cartridge for analysis. The sample is then analysed by a portable DSR-Plus analysis unit.

The machine uses sensitive lateral flow technology and fluorescence measurement methods.

Its makes say the test is more hygienic and has less chance of being done wrong because it utilises sweat samples rather than a throat or mouth swab. 

It’s unclear how accurate the test is or whether UK ministers are looking into it.

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