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”.