The public will be able to conduct coronavirus antibody tests at home within a matter of days, rather than weeks and months, MPs have heard.
Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service, Public Health England (PHE) told the 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.
Prof Peacock explained a small number of tests would be tested in a laboratory before being distributed via Amazon and in places like Boots.
Prof Peacock 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”.
The UK’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said there was a “global bottle neck” on buying more testing kits.
Speaking at a press conference, he said it was the Government’s aim to be able to buy tests that would allow NHS workers to go back to work if they test negative for coronavirus.
“This is a global problem – every country wants this new test for a disease that wasn’t being tested for anywhere three months ago,” he said.
“Everybody wants it so there is a global shortage and that’s a bottleneck for us.
“The next priority is to get critical workers back to work or to say to them, ‘You have got it’. We definitely would like that.”
The PM said the Government was “massively ramping up our testing programmes” and hoped to be conducting 250,000 tests a day “very soon”.
Prof Whitty said there were shortages along many supply chains in the production of tests because “every country in the world is simultaneously wanting this new thing”.
He added: “It’s not that there is no testing going on, what we need, clearly, is to be able to scale it up.”