Mass-coronavirus testing to take place across country after UK buys 3,500,000 kits

The antibody tests are expected to tell people whether they are immune to the bug (Sky News/

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the Government has ordered 3.5 million antibody tests to aid its battle against coronavirus.

They will let people know if they have had coronavirus and whether they are immune to the airborne disease. It is hoped that these tests will let people know sooner if they can go back to work safely without the risk of infecting others.

At today’s Downing Street press conference the Health Secretary said a new testing facility had been opened today in Milton Keynes and that millions of antibody tests were on their way.

He said: ‘I understand why NHS staff, in particular, and others across public service are so keen to get the testing ramped up, that we need to see and that we are undertaking.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and National Medical Director at NHS England Stephen Powis answer questions from the media via video link (Picture: PA)

‘Of course it really matters for getting people getting back to work, so we have now bought 3.5 million antibody tests. That will allow people to see whether they have had the virus and are immune to it and then can get back to work.’

Hancock said 7.5 million pieces of protective equipment including facemasks had been shipped out in the last 24 hours and that a hotline would allow NHS and care staff to request personal protective equipment if they do not have it.

Mr Hancock said it had been ‘literally a military effort to get these millions of pieces of kit out to people’ after the armed forces were seen delivering gear to NHS hospitals today.

He added: ‘If people are working on the front line to look after us, it’s vital that we look after them.’

The Health Secretary said it was ‘vital that we look after’ those on the frontline tackling the coronavirus pandemic
He said there has been been ‘literally a military effort’ to get personal protective equipment to hospitals after British Army vehicles were seen delivering much needed bits of kit (Picture: AP)

The Health Secretary said he had been fine sitting in the House of Commons next to health minister Nadine Dorries, who has recovered from coronavirus.

He said: ‘She is for the time being, immune to it because we expect people not to be able to catch it, except in very exceptional circumstances, for a second time’.

Welcoming her back to the chamber earlier today, he said: ‘The minister…is sitting next to me and close to me and that’s because she has recovered. All the evidence is you can’t catch this twice, at least in quick succession, so that’s OK. I welcome her back to her place.’

At this afternoon’s conference, which saw journalists ask questions remotely via video link, Hancock announced a 4,000 bed temporary hospital is due to open at the Excel Centre in London next week – set up with the help of the military.

He said some 11,788 retired doctors, nurses and medics have answered an appeal to return to the profession to aid the country’s efforts against the pandemic.

New antibody tests could let people know if they have already had the virus and have developed immunity (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)
Speakers at today’s conference kept far apart from each other in line with social distancing guidelines (Picture: PA)

It comes after the UK death toll jumped by 87 from yesterday to 422, while the total number of confirmed cases now stands at 8077.

Despite persuading thousands of professionals to come back to the frontlines, the NHS still needs more help and says it wants 250,000 people to join a health volunteer force.

It comes after Boris Johnson announced a sweeping set of social distancing measures last night which have effectively put the country on lockdown in which people are only allowed to leave the house for a specific set of reasons.

At today’s conference Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said couples who live separately should ‘test their strength’ by moving in together so as not to break the rules.

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