UK orders millions of 90-minute Covid test kits

Ministers say the new tests can help stifle new outbreaks

FILE PHOTO - Britain's Secretary of State of Health Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 2, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Picture

The UK has ordered millions of fast-turnaround tests for Covid-19 that can give results within 90 minutes.

Ministers said the new tests were a “game-changer” for identifying and halting new outbreaks with a predicted resurgence of the virus.

The government said millions of the tests – which would give results within 60 to 90 minutes – would be sent to care homes, hospitals and laboratories.

It was not immediately clear if the test would be available for travellers requiring Covid-19 clearance to travel to the Middle East. The first international travellers to the UAE landed in early July.

The new tests can detect flu and Covid-19, allowing medics to screen for the virus and adapt for those detained in hospital.

“Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will provide on-the-spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly,” said British Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“The fact these tests can detect flu as well as Covid-19 will be hugely beneficial as we head into winter, so patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others.”

Oxford Nanopore Technologies said its initial order from the government is for 450,000 tests which use genetic sequencing to detect the virus. The company said that the deal had the potential to build to millions of tests per month.

A second company, DnaNudge, said it will provide 5.8 million tests along with processing equipment for hospitals in a deal worth about £161 million (Dh765m). Some 5,000 analytical machines will be sent to hospitals in the UK that can test for Covid-19 for nose swabs within 90 minutes, it said.

The British government has been criticised for its slow response to building up its testing capacity. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that all tests would be processed within 24 hours by the end of June.

The latest data suggests that nine in ten were turned around within a day where testing was done at drive-through centres, but home testing and postal system took longer.

Ministers are seeking to damp down spikes of the virus while rebooting the economy, which is facing its worst recession in 300 years.

“This is a game changer because the ability to do a test by just over an hour ... or 90 minutes will make a massive difference to our response to coronavirus,” Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC.