Coronavirus: New 90-minute tests for Covid-19 and flu ‘hugely beneficial’

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New 90-minute tests that can detect coronavirus and flu will be rolled out in care homes and laboratories from next week.

The “on-the-spot” swab and DNA tests will help distinguish between Covid-19 and other seasonal illnesses, the government said.

The health secretary said this would be “hugely beneficial” over the winter.

Currently, three quarters of test results are returned within 24 hours and a quarter can take up to two days.

The announcement comes as the government pushed back a July target to regularly test care home staff and residents, saying the number of testing kits had become more limited.

Almost half a million of the new rapid swab tests will be available from next week in adult care settings and labs, with millions more due to be rolled out later in the year.

Additionally, thousands of DNA test machines, which have already been used in eight London hospitals and can analyse nose swabs, will be rolled out across NHS hospitals from September.

Around 5,000 machines will provide 5.8 million tests in the coming months, the department said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock described these latest innovations in coronavirus testing as “life-saving”.

He added: “Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will provide on-the-spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly.

“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.”

Analysis

By Lauren Moss, health correspondent

There’s been a lot of focus on how long Covid test results can take to come back and the impact that has on halting the spread of the virus.

Overall, three quarters of results are now returned within 24 hours but some can still take up to two days.

The new rapid tests that can analyse swabs in pop up mobile labs and provide results in 90 minutes is hugely significant.

No data on the accuracy of these tests has been made publicly available yet but those behind them say there are controls in place to check for false negatives.

And another major benefit sees the tests able to detect other winter illnesses, such as the flu, so doctors will know whether someone presenting with coronavirus symptoms has the virus or something else.

It comes as authorities in Greater Manchester insisted people should not be alarmed by a decision to declare a “major incident” on Sunday evening in response to rising rates of Covid-19 there.

Manchester City Council said the move was to help various agencies work together and draw on extra resources.

Scotland’s national clinical director warned of going “backwards” over easing lockdown after a cluster of coronavirus cases were linked to a pub in Aberdeen.

Meanwhile, Leicester – the first UK city to have a localised lockdown – will see pubs and restaurants reopen from Monday as a number of restrictions are lifted.

And a government scheme to encourage people to visit restaurants, cafes and pubs, customers across the UK has now launched – giving customers of 72,000 establishments 50% off meals bought Monday to Wednesday in August.