Coronavirus: New 90-minute tests for Covid-19 and flu ‘hugely beneficial’

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New “life-saving” 90-minute tests that can detect coronavirus and flu will be rolled out in care homes and laboratories from next week.

The “on-the-spot” swab and DNA tests will help distinguish between Covid-19 and other seasonal illnesses, the government said.

The health secretary said this would be “hugely beneficial” over the winter.

Currently, three quarters of test results are returned within 24 hours and a quarter can take up to two days.

The announcement comes as the government pushed back a July target to regularly test care home staff and residents, saying the number of testing kits had become more limited.

Almost half a million of the new rapid swab tests will be available from next week in adult care settings and labs, with millions more due to be rolled out later in the year.

Additionally, thousands of DNA test machines, which have already been used in eight London hospitals and can analyse nose swabs, will be rolled out across NHS hospitals from September.

Around 5,000 machines will provide 5.8 million tests in the coming months, the department said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock described these latest innovations in coronavirus testing as “life-saving”.

He added: “Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will provide on-the-spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly.

“The fact these tests can detect flu as well as Covid-19 will be hugely beneficial as we head into winter, so patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others.”

Analysis

By Lauren Moss, health correspondent

There’s been a lot of focus on how long Covid test results can take to come back and the impact that has on halting the spread of the virus.

Overall, three quarters of results are now returned within 24 hours but some can still take up to two days.

The new rapid tests that can analyse swabs in pop up mobile labs and provide results in 90 minutes is hugely significant.

No data on the accuracy of these tests has been made publicly available yet but those behind them say there are controls in place to check for false negatives.

And another major benefit sees the tests able to detect other winter illnesses, such as the flu, so doctors will know whether someone presenting with coronavirus symptoms has the virus or something else.

It comes as authorities in Greater Manchester insisted people should not be alarmed by a decision to declare a “major incident” on Sunday evening in response to rising rates of Covid-19 there.

Manchester City Council said the move was to help various agencies work together and draw on extra resources.

Scotland’s national clinical director warned of going “backwards” over easing lockdown after a cluster of coronavirus cases were linked to a pub in Aberdeen.

Meanwhile, Leicester – the first UK city to have a localised lockdown – will see pubs and restaurants reopen from Monday as a number of restrictions are lifted.

And a government scheme to encourage people to visit restaurants, cafes and pubs, customers across the UK has now launched – giving customers of 72,000 establishments 50% off meals bought Monday to Wednesday in August.

Coronavirus tests are currently carried out at drive-through or walk-in sites as well as at hospitals for patients and some NHS workers.

Home test kits can also be delivered to someone’s door so people can test themselves. Swab samples are analysed at a laboratory before the result being passed on to the individual.

Unlike other seasonal illnesses, those infected with Covid-19 are required to self-isolate for 10 days.

‘Highly accurate’

Prof Chris Toumazou, co-founder of DnaNudge, which supplied the machines providing the tests, said the “rapid” and “highly accurate” Covid-19 test can be deployed anywhere “with a direct sample-to-result”.

Gordon Sanghera, chief executive of Oxford Nanopore, which supplied the tests, said they have the potential to provide an “accessible global testing solution”.

Regular testing of care home residents and staff was meant to have started on 6 July but officials said this might not be in place until the end of the first week of September.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “A combination of factors have meant that a more limited number of testing kits, predominantly used in care homes, are currently available for asymptomatic re-testing and we are working round the clock with providers to restore capacity.”

Last month, the government withdrew one brand of home-testing kits used in care homes over safety concerns.

Meanwhile, researchers are urgently appealing for recovered patients to donate their blood plasma – in a bid to help the NHS treat people who fall ill in the coming months.

A major trial is ongoing, looking at how effective transfusing blood plasma into patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response could be as a potential treatment for Covid-19.

A further eight deaths were reported in the UK on Sunday, taking the total number of people who have died after testing positive for the virus to 46,201. However figures tend to be lower at the weekend due to reporting delays.

The latest government statistics also showed 744 new cases had been confirmed in the 24 hours to 09:00 on Sunday.

 

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