A new Coronavirus test which could help discover if people have developed immunity to coronavirus is 100% accurate, public health leaders have announced
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously stated antibody testing a “game-changer” as it could reveal how many people have had Covid-19 without knowing anything about it.
Any reliable test may help speed up measures to ease the lockdown in Spain because they could go back to work confident they were not likely to get it again whilst also offering the opportunity to open their businesses.
However a senior World Health Organisation official has warned the virus may never go away.
Public Health England said last week scientific experts at its Porton Down facility had carried out an independent test of a new antibody blood test developed by a Swiss pharmaceutical company.
The examination found Roche’s serology test was “highly specific” and had an accuracy of 100%.
Professor John Newton, national coordinator of the UK Coronavirus Testing Programme, said although it was still unclear to what extent the presence of antibodies indicated immunity to Covid-19, it was a “very positive development”.
He added: “We were confident that good quality antibody tests would become available when they were needed.
“Last week, scientific experts at PHE Porton Down carried out an independent evaluation of the new Roche Sars-CoV-2 serology assay in record time, concluding that it is a highly specific assay with specificity of 100%.
“This is a very positive development because such a highly specific antibody test is a very reliable marker of past infection.
“This in turn may indicate some immunity to future infection although the extent to which the presence of antibodies indicates immunity remains unclear.”
“We are delighted that devices are progressing through validation, and are actively working on our plans for rolling out antibody testing and will make announcements in due course.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week said the UK was in talks with Roche about a “very large-scale roll-out” of coronavirus antibody testing.
The findings come as Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, told the FT’s Global Boardroom digital conference no-one could predict when the disease would disappear.
He said: “We have a new virus entering the human population for the first time, and therefore it is very hard to predict when we will prevail over it.
“And it is important to put this on the table – this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities. And this virus may never go away.
“HIV has not gone away, we’ve come to terms with the virus and we have found the therapies and we found the prevention methods, and people don’t feel as scared as they did before and we’re offering long healthy life to people with HIV.”
Mr Johnson will chair Cabinet on Thursday, the day after grim economic figures were released and some lockdown restrictions in England were relaxed.
After the data showed the economy shrank by 5.8% in March, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey warned Britain was in a sharp slide to recession.
The same fears are also for Spain who are unlocking slower than the UK.
He told ITV’s Peston on the TV last night: “Well, I think it tends to confirm that we’ve got a very sharp move into recession and it was quite sudden, which is obviously what we’ve all observed from the shutting down of the economy so, to be frank, we’re not really surprised by that number at all.”
With Mr Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer locked in a war of words over whether the Government was too slow to deal with the coronavirus outbreak in care homes, a leading health figure said residents and staff had been “neglected”.