The public will be able to conduct coronavirus antibody tests at home within a matter of days, MPs have heard.
Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service, Public Health England (PHE), told Westminster’s science and technology committee that 3.5 million tests had been bought and would be available in the “near future”.
She said the tests would also allow key workers – like doctors and nurses – to go back to work if they have developed antibodies against Covid-19, but that they would ultimately be available to everyone.
Previously described by Boris Johnson as “as simple as a pregnancy test”, the test is designed to inform if you have previously had coronavirus and if you now have immunity to it.
The Prime Minister described the kits as, potentially, “a total game-changer”, with hopes it could help speed up the economic recovery from the impacts of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Prof Peacock explained a small number of kits would be tested in a laboratory before being distributed via Amazon and in places like Boots.
She added: “Once we are assured that they do work, they will be rolled out into the community.
“Testing the test is a small matter, and I anticipate that it will be done by the end of this week.
“In the near future people will be able to order a test that they can test themselves, or go to Boots, or somewhere similar to have their finger prick test done.”
Asked whether this meant it would be available in a number of days, rather than weeks or months, she said “absolutely”.
On the test itself, Prof Peacock said: “It looks like a pregnancy test except that you’re putting a finger with a spot of blood on there.
“You prick your finger like a diabetic would, then get a drop of blood and put it on a filter paper, and then run some liquid to make that blood run into the test zone.”
She would not confirm if the tests would be free to the public but predicted any charge would be “absolutely minimal”.
A nurse has raised thousands of pounds to help patients with coronavirus after seeing first hand how “desperately unwell” they have become.
Alison Williams from Edinburgh launched the crowdfunding page in a bid to raise money for essential items needed by those hospitalised with the covid-19 virus in Lothian and “potentially beyond”.
The page, which had an initial target on £500, has already raised over £4000 since it was launched on Saturday morning.
That number continues to grow as donations come flooding.
Alison says they are looking for donations that will help them purchase pyjamas, toiletries and Ipads to allow them to keep in contact with families after seeing how “desperately unwell” they are.
On the JustGiving page she said: “Unfortunately staff working in the COVID positive wards at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary are seeing first hand how desperately unwell these people are and how little they have.
“Without any visitors, and families at home in isolation they have little or no clothing and toiletries.
“We’re looking to purchase men’s/ladies pyjamas, toiletries and, if donations permit, hospital ipads to allow them to keep in touch with their families at such a difficult time.
“We appreciate that things are difficult for everyone right now but if you can help someone in the most difficult of times if would be very much appreciated.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is self-isolating after developing mild symptoms of coronavirus.
The Conservative MP for Dumfries and Galloway said he has a mild temperature and a cough.
He has not been tested for Covid-19 but is self-isolating and working from home.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Friday that they have tested positive for Covid-19 while England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said that he has symptoms.
Jack said: “In the past 24 hours, I have developed mild symptoms associated with coronavirus.
“In line with medical guidance, I am self-isolating and working from home.”
The MP has been at home in his constituency since Wednesday.
Johnson, Hancock and Mr Whitty are all self-isolating and continuing to work.
For anyone with a toothache, getting an appointment at your dentist is no longer an option.
This week saw practices close their doors to all patients to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Some fear a lack of financial support could force them to close down.
More than 600 dentists have signed a letter to the Scottish Government urging them to intervene to prevent NHS dental practices from being “decimated”.
Dentists are now dealing with queries on the phone, with the most serious cases referred to central hubs such as health centres or dental hospitals.
If a patient is showing no Covid-19 symptoms they can be given advice or a prescription.
Only serious cases including swelling, bleeding or trauma are sent to a designated site such as a health centre or dental hospital.
Last week the Scottish Government agreed to continue to pay practices 90% of NHS funding.
However, dentists that rely more heavily on patient charges could see their finances hit hard.
Drew Gibson runs two NHS practices in Bearsden, with around 13,000 registered patients.
“I think there will be a significant number of practices that will be in financial difficulty in a short period of time,” he said.
“Medical, pharmaceutical, optical and so on are receiving 100% funding and that is something that we are not receiving at this moment in time and I would certainly urge the Scottish Government to look at that purely from the viability of the jobs within dental practices and so on.”
However, officials say they are doing all they can to keep all practices open.
Chief dental officer for Scotland Tom Ferris told STV: “We are working really hard in the background to see if we can identify additional resource to support those practices that are more dependent on that patient charge for revenue.
“They are not going to have no hit. Every business is going to take a bit of a hit from this process and there will be an impact on practices.
“We hope to do as much as we can to make sure they are in the place to ride out that storm and be there for us when we get to the other end.”
Details of additional funding are expected next week.
“We hope that through working with Royal Voluntary service to donate these bags to hospitals, we can help make a difference to their daily life.”
The news follows Lidl’s recent announcement that it will be rolling out its customer food donation boxes in stores nationwide, as part of its Feed it Back scheme, and donating £100,000 to its partnership with Neighbourly, to help vulnerable people and children.
Meanwhile other supermarkets have been bringing in a range of measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic and support staff.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose and Iceland all announced priority access for NHS staff earlier in the week.
And Morrisons installed new protective screens at all store checkouts.
Police are hunting a teenager who assaulted a health worker by deliberately coughing on her and telling her she had coronavirus in Banchory.
The woman was driving along the unclassified road between Inchmarlo Golf Course to Brathen Wood on Friday when she noticed the boy sitting on the ground and waving to attract her attention.
When she stopped the car he ran up to her and coughed in her face before laughing and saying she now had the virus.
The youth then ran off into the woods where he is believed to have joined a group of others.
The incident took place at around 1.40pm.
Police are now looking to trace the suspect who is described as being around 5ft6 and aged between 13 and 16-years-old with a slim build and a local accent.
He was wearing a light grey hoodie, a black jacket and black or dark blue joggers.
Police say the incident is being treated as assault.
Sergeant Garry Garrow, of Banchory Police Station, said: “This kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It left the woman distressed and fearful.
“I am appealing to anyone who saw what happened to get in touch, particularly if they saw this youth before or after the assault, or know who he is.
“I would also ask parents to remind their children that this kind of behaviour is more than just a prank, it can cause genuine fear and increased anxiety in the current climate.
“Officers will not tolerate anyone behaving like this and take robust action to find those responsible.”
A spokesman for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “Scotland’s prosecution service will take action to protect public safety at all times and has a range of responses available to tackle unacceptable criminal conduct that may arise during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Any person who deliberately endangers life, or spreads fear and alarm by pretending to do so, will be dealt with robustly.
“It is difficult to imagine a more compelling case for prosecution in the public interest.
“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is working closely with Police Scotland to ensure continued effective investigation and prosecution of crime that places public safety as a priority.”
Anyone with information that can assist with enquiries is asked to call Police Scotland on 101.
The family of an elderly man missing for a week have urged anyone with information about his whereabouts to get in touch.
Thomas Brian Porteous, 80, was last seen at his home in Woodburn Court in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire at around 10am on Saturday March 21.
Searches of the area have found no trace of him.
The family of Mr Porteous, known as Brian, urged him to let them or police know he is safe, and asked anyone with information about where he might be to get in touch.
In a statement issued through police they said: “Brian is 80 years old but looks younger than his age.
“He is fairly mobile and has a quiet nature. It is not like him not to be in touch. We want to get him home safely as we miss him.”
Mr Porteous is described as white, 5ft 5in, of slim build, with white hair.
His family believe that on the morning he disappeared he was wearing a dark green hooded coat, navy chino-style trousers, a short-sleeved white and navy checked shirt and brown suede walking shoes.
Inspector Roger Bond said: “We have been making extensive inquiries over the last week to try to find Brian and searches will be continuing.
“Officers will be going out whilst adhering to current safe working practices.
“In particular I would appeal to anyone who may have dash-cam footage from the Woodburn Court area around the time when Brian went missing to get in touch as this may be vital information in working out his movements.
“I would also appeal to anyone with private CCTV footage to check it and see if there is anything that might help with our inquiries.
“I would urge local people not to carry out their own searches due to the current nationwide advice to stay at home.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101
As we enter the first weekend of lockdown following strict measures put in place by the government, some may be thinking of ways to entertain themselves without leaving the house.
As outdoor exercise is limited to one walk, run or cycle per day, non-essential travel discouraged and trips to the shops only for essential items, it may seem difficult to find ways to entertain the family.
Thanks to modern technology however, companies are helping people stay connected while enjoying culture, art and even a trip to the zoo.
For the whole family
Since a trip to the cinema will be off the cards for a while, recreate the experience at home with all your favourite foods and a couple of your favourite films.
Serve up hot dogs and fresh popcorn for snacks and let little kids write up ticket stubs for entry into your living room.
You can expand the fun by including family members who live outwith the home, by utilising software such as Netflix Party, which allows different devices to sync up and watch the same movie or television show at the same time, with a chat function also embedded.
Trip to the zoo
Penguins, tigers and pandas, oh my!
As zoos across the country close their doors to the public, it may seem strange to suggest an afternoon looking at interesting wildlife.
But thanks to technology, you can still see some of your favourite animals at Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park.
Live cameras positioned around the parks capture the animals as they continue to be looked after by staff, and you can even look at other zoos across the UK to see a plethora of different creatures.
Take a Harry Potter tour
If plans to visit the Harry Potter studios in London or even the theme park in the US have been postponed, then these special tours from See Your City will bring a little magic to the whole family from the comfort of your own home.
Choosing from either London or Edinburgh, the live tour guide will sort you into a Hogwarts house before showing you around the city, talking about how the sites relate to the Harry Potter series.
Test your Potter knowledge with fun games and quizzes and even try and outsmart your guide in this fun virtual tour which can accommodate up to ten people.
For the adults
Watch a West End play
The National Theatre has dug around its archives and will be streaming some of its top West End productions each week on YouTube.
First up is One Man, Two Guvnors, which features a Tony Award-winning performance from James Cordon in the lead role. A hilarious slapstick adventure, Francis Henshall, played by Corden, aims to keep his two employers from finding out about each other.
Twelfth Night, Jane Eyre and Treasure Island will also feature during the company’s closure, with each play streaming on YouTube on Thursdays at 7pm and available for one week afterwards.
Although each show is free, The National Theatre is encouraging online audiences to donate to the company to ensure its survival.
See some stand up comedy
Premiering last weekend, comedy club The Stand brought fresh material from some of the country’s top comics straight into homes thanks to its Saturday night live stream and it’s back again this weekend.
Streaming from 8.30pm, stars such as Frankie Boyle, Daniel Sloss, Janey Godley and Jim Smith will have audiences howling from their own homes and the show can be streamed from YouTube on your phone, tablet, computer or smart tv.
Donations to The Stand are welcome, which will go towards supporting staff and acts, while ensuring the famous club survives these trying times.
Take a tour around an art gallery
If holiday plans have been cancelled or you just fancy looking at some works of art from the comfort of your living room, then browsing some of the world’s top virtual gallery tours will be right up your street.
While opera may not be your first choice of evening entertainment, the chance to see first class shows with stunning visuals (as well as english subtitles) may sway you to look outside your comfort zone.
Each show will stream around midnight thanks to the time difference, but will be available to watch for up to 24 hours after streaming. Upcoming performances include Don Carlo and Macbeth, recorded in 2010 and 2014 respectively.
Much like The National Theatre, The Met Opera have also asked for donations in exchange for the service.