THE UK is currently testing as many people as it can for coronavirus to find out the extent of the epidemic.
Some 434 people have so far died in the UK after being infected with Covid-19, and 8,176 have been diagnosed with the deadly disease. But how do I get tested for coronavirus in the UK and when will home testing kits be available?
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How do I get tested for coronavirus in the UK?
Currently only people in hospital are being tested, so if you have symptoms and you’re not sure if you have the virus, you may well not be able to find out – even if you’re working for the NHS.
As of today, 90,436 people in the UK had been tested for coronavirus – currently between 5,000 and 6,000 a day.
The government plans to increase this to 25,000 tests a day within four weeks.
There are two main reasons for testing people: to diagnose them individually, and to try to understand how far the virus has spread in the wider population.
This second reason is known as “surveillance testing”.
The UK is not currently doing any mass surveillance testing or actively tracing people who have come into contact with known cases.
Not testing more widely means lots of Brits might be self-isolating for no good reason, including NHS workers.
When will home testing kits be available?
A coronavirus home testing kit will be available “within days” the Government has revealed.
The test, which detects antibodies to the virus in the blood, will be able to determine if someone has or has already had Covid-19.
When a person gets infected by Covid-19, their body starts making specially designed proteins called antibodies to fight the infection.
MPs heard the Government has bought 3.5 million antibody tests and will priorities NHS staff and key workers – such as doctors and nurses – to enable people to go back to work.
Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England (PHE), told the Science and Technology Committee the tests will be available “within days”.
But, the Government tonight made it clear those tests will not be available for the public to buy.
Instead, Boots and Amazon will be used to distribute tests to NHS workers and other key workers who are self-isolating.
Samples of the test are being quality checked in Oxford this week before they are made available for distribution nationwide.
Prof Sharon Peacock, from the National Infection Service, said they will be sold for a small fee or given away free of charge.
She told the Committee: “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.
“Once the bulk of the tests arrive they will be distributed into the community, where there will be a mechanism to order a test via Amazon.
“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.”
When asked whether this meant it would be available in days, rather than weeks or months, she said: “Absolutely.”
She added: “If you have antibodies you know you have had the infection. This is not just for health workers, this is for the general population.
“Over time we would expect a proportion of the population to test positive and that will allow them to get back to work.”
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What is the coronavirus test?
Testing for coronavirus looks for signs of infection in blood, other bodily fluids or secretions.
There are a number of ways the virus can be tested.
- Blood – this involves the collection of a blood sample from a blood vessel in your arm.
- Nasal – this is when a saline is inserted into the nose and removed with gentle suction.
- Sputum – this involves the patient coughing up mucus from the lungs into a cup or a swab used to take mucus from the nose.
- Tracheal aspirate – this requires a thin lighted tube inserted into the mouth and down the lungs, where a sample will be collected.
Testing for the virus comes with some minor side effects, including tingling and slight discomfort. These however, are temporary.