Coronavirus: Groundbreaking antibody test approved by UK health officials

A test to find out whether people have been infected with coronavirus in the past has been approved by health officials.

Developed by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, the blood test looks for antibodies to see if a person has already had the virus and might now have some immunity.

Public Health England said the antibody test, developed by Roche, was a "very positive development".

The test picks up 100 per cent of people who have had coronavirus, meaning that it has 100 per cent sensitivity and therefore very reliable.

It also has an accuracy rating of over 99.8 per cent, this means it picks up virtually all people who have not had the virus.

Experts believe a proportion of people who have had Covid-19 never actually develop symptoms and are aysmptomatic. The new test can identify people who have had coronavirus even if they have never had any indication they had contracted it.

The government previously spent a reported £16m buying antibody tests which later proved to be ineffective.

Health minister Edward Argar said the tests would mainly be used on those in the NHS and social care settings to begin with. No dates have been announced for the rollout.

Number 10 said the new antibody test would "certainly" be available to the NHS, but said commercial discussions with Roche are ongoing. It is hoped the test will become available to the wider public - although it is unclear whether this will be via the NHS or through commercial websites.

The swab tests currently being carried out in the UK determine whether someone has the virus at the time of the test. These will remain the core part of the government's test, track and trace strategy for containing the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, another 428 coronavirus deaths have been recorded across the UK, bringing the total number of deaths for people who have tested positive for the virus to 33,614.

Elsewhere, one in 400 people in England is infected with coronavirus, a survey of 11,000 people in households suggests.

Swab tests were carried out over the two weeks up to 10 May.This indicates about 148,000 people in England could be currently infected, which is 0.27% of the population.

The pilot study of 5,000 households has given an overview of how many people could be infected with the virus at a given point in time, with or without symptoms. The study is set to expand testing for the virus to 25,000 people in private households across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.