Matt Hancock admits all antibody kits so far have FAILED to work – with up to 3 in 4 positive results missed


The Health Secretary said last night that a crucial part of getting the UK back to work again would be to use immunity certificates or wristbands which could be worn if people had had the bug.

A finger prick test will be able to tell you if you’ve had coronavirus in future, the Government hopes

Matt Hancock said there wasn’t yet an antibody test which works

A finger prick blood test can be done at home in just 20 minutes, but Mr Hancock has not yet found one that actually works, so they can’t be used as part of the goal to get to 100,000.

Last night he said that several of the antibody kits had failed accuracy tests – with three in four positive results being missed.

He told BBC Radio 4 this morning: “I think that the antibody test, the blood test, at the moment we haven’t got a reliable home test.

“If we manage to get one then that can be easily replicated and we can get into even higher figures, much higher figures.”

He refused to sanction any which don’t work well enough, saying it would put more people in harms way if they thought they were safe but turned out to be at risk.

Instead he said he was not factoring in ANY antibody tests into the 100,000 target, and the other swab-tests to tell if someone currently has Covid-19 will be ramped up.

“I am not assuming any come on stream… in order to hit the 100,000 target,” he said.

“We have already 3,500 a week of antibody tests at Porton Down and they are the top quality, the best test in the world. We are using those for research purposes to understand how much of the population has had coronavirus.”

That means it could be months before the Government find a suitable antibody test that works and can be rolled out, despite health experts saying it could be on the market in days.

Last night Mr Hancock said the Government had got its hands on 17.5million – subject to them working.

He added: “The early results of some of them have not performed well, but we’re hopeful that they will improve and that the later tests that we’ve got our hands on will be able to be reliable enough for people to use them with confidence.”

He insisted that the UK had been as prepared as it could have been for the pandemic – despite the desperate scramble for tests and ventilators.

“No country can be fully prepared for a new disease,” he told LBC.

And he told the BBC: “Hand on heart, at each stage I’ve done everything I possibly could.”

Queues at Chessington tests centre today

A drive through centre at Cardiff City stadium being set up

Work to build a temporary mortuary near Manor Park in east London continues

Mr Hancock insisted the first priority for tests would be sick patients in hospitals.

After that, critical care workers, and other NHS  staff and their families would be tested.

Then social care, prisons, and the police will get them in the next roll-out.

Only after that will they go out to the general population.

The tests could help lift lockdown measures if people are shown to be immune after they’ve had the virus.

Mr Hancock said earlier it was highly likely he would be immune after catching it, but more work needed to be done to confirm this.

However, the Health Secretary repeatedly dodged committing to whether Britain can actually reach his target of 100,000 tests by the end of April.

He would only say it was a “goal” and he “has a plan” to get there.

Ministers have been under fire for days for woeful numbers of testing – which is far below that of other countries.

The Government has promised to ramp it up with a five-point plan for testing everyone who needs it.

However, HOAR revealed today that some tests are being sent as far as Germany to be processed before being shipped back here.

Another 569 people were confirmed to have died of Covid-19 yesterday – taking the UK total to more than 2,900.

His five-point plan to get to 100,000 tests a day by the end of April included:

  1. A vow to carry out 25,000 swab tests a day in NHS hospitals and PHE labs to test patients for Covid-19, by the end of April – up from 10k a day now
  2. Creation of new swab testing capacity with help of commercial partners including Amazon, Boots and universities in new labs and testing sites for NHS staff and their families
  3. ‘Game-changing’ antibody tests to tell if people have had coronavirus, and are immune to it. Finger-prick blood test takes as little as 20 minutes, and Government is working with nine companies to test whether they work. But could take up to 28 days to show best results
  4. Virus surveillance, using the antibody test to understand the rate of infection and how the virus is spreading across the UK. Key to helping us exit the crisis.
  5. Build the British diagnostic industry “at scale” – with the pharmaceutical industry, including major drugs firms Astra Zeneca and GSK

All NHS staff will be able to have a test by the end of the month, he promised.

“That is the goal and I’m determined were going to get there,” Mr Hancock insisted.

However, experts have doubted whether it can be done.

Keith Plumb, a chemical engineer on the board of trustees at the Institution of Chemical Engineers, told Sky News: “Setting up what appears to be effectively a new industry within the UK in such a short amount of time doesn’t really seem to be that practical.

“I’m not saying we can’t do it, but it does seem to be quite difficult.

“I wouldn’t say it was a completely empty promise but the task is very great – the proverbial ‘herculean task’.

Matt Hancock last night said ministers had bought 17 million tests – if they prove to work

This morning he said the lockdown would be in place for a number of weeks yet, and said Britain would be reaching the peak “sooner than expected” because of the tough measures put in place telling everyone to stay home.

Mr Hancock said coronavirus felt like there was “glass in my throat” and stressed that he had a cough too.

He lost half a stone from being unable to eat or drink, as well.



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