Posted: Sat 28th Mar 2020

New ‘antibody’ test to identify if people have had coronavirus to be rolled out in Wales

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Mar 28th, 2020

New coronavirus antibody tests are set to be rolled out in Wales, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said today. 

The handheld tests which require only a drop of blood can give results in 10 minutes, they are set to be tested in the UK from next week.

The tests are able to identify if someone had the infection previously by showing if they have antibodies for COVID-19.

This type of testing will allow individuals, including NHS workers, to return to work and help to refine estimates of how the virus has spread across the UK

The current antigen test can only tell if someone currently has the virus and is only used if someone has symptoms of coronavirus or is living with someone who has those symptoms.

Initially, it will be for frontline healthcare workers and the most vulnerable, but it will be expanded to other critical workers such as police, fire service and social care workers.

The antibody test will also be used in places where there have been clusters of the virus (like hospitals or prisons) to improve understanding of how it spreads.

Mr Gething: “The new antibody test will be a massive leap forward in helping us respond to coronavirus. In the immediate term, it will help our critical workers – especially our frontline NHS and social care staff – return to work and provide life-saving care.

“This new test is vital to give them the confidence and keep them safe as they carry out their work to keep everyone else safe.

The new antibody test will help people return to work quickly and safely. It will speed up the search for a vaccine and efforts to stop the spread of the virus.”

Mr Gething also announced today a new plan for testing, which will see a wider range of suppliers providing coronavirus testing kits to Wales, to ensure testing capacity can be increased.

From next week, there will be capacity for 1,100 tests a day in Wales, by mid-April, up to 5,000 antigen tests a day will be provided to people admitted to hospitals with suspected coronavirus, frontline NHS staff and people who are classed as extremely vulnerable.

A further 4,000 tests a day will be available to roll out antigen testing throughout Wales as part of a four-nation deal for the UK involving Thermo Fisher Scientific, Amazon, Boots, Royal Mail and Randox, which was announced by the UK Government yesterday.

This is in addition to the roll-out of the antibody tests.

The Health Minister revealed a testing kit manufacturer has pulled out of a supply agreement with Welsh Government, he said:

“It’s very disappointing a company with which we had a written agreement to provide tests is not able to honour that agreement.

But this plan allows us to continue to increase testing capacity in our hospitals and community, drawing on a four-nation agreement.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM, said she is “severely concerned that Wales is dramatically falling behind testing of Covid19 as the contract, which was due to increase testing to 6,000 tests per day, has collapsed.”

Angela Burns AM commented:

“I’m deeply concerned by this turn of events. It is devastating that the contract has broken down but why did the Welsh Government not have a backup plan in place?

Now more than ever it is vital we are able to test our frontline staff and we are weeks behind getting processes in place.

Our frontline heroes from across the heath service in social care, pharmacists, GPs and hospitals – all these people will come into contact with people who have Covid-19 and we must make sure that they and the people they are treating are safe. We owe it to them, for putting their lives at risk for us.

The rest of the UK is in battle mode to defeat this awful virus. In Wales we need to make sure that we fully utilise the laboratories across Wales in private companies, universities and any other organisation that can help us to significantly ramp up testing and quickly.

The Welsh Government has got to pull together every single trick in the book, every single bit of leverage they have to go and get the ability for us to have far more testing than we currently have.”

Staying at home if you think you have coronavirus (self-isolating)

Staying at home and away from others (social distancing)

How to protect extremely vulnerable people (shielding)

 

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