Millions of 15-minute home coronavirus tests are set to be available on the high street or for Amazon delivery to people self-isolating, according to Public Health England (PHE), in a move that could restore many people’s lives to a semblance of pre-lockdown normality.
The UK government has bought 3.5m tests – which reveal whether someone has had the virus and is therefore thought to have some immunity – and is ordering millions more, it has said.
At the prime minister’s daily press conference on Wednesday, the government’s medical and scientific advisers said they needed to be certain the tests worked before they could be made available.
“The key thing for us to do is evaluate – are these tests accurate enough to be used by the general public?” said Chris Whitty, chief medical officer. “If they are incredibly accurate, we will work out the quickest way to release them. If they are not accurate, we will not release any of them.”
The tests would, he said, “completely transform what we can do” – but were not as important as the antigen tests which are used to diagnose Covid-19 in sick hospital patients.