UK has no plans to buy rapid COVID-19 test favoured by US and WHO

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The US and some of the world’s poorest countries may get a low-cost and rapid COVID-19 test ahead of the UK, after the government said it had no immediate plans to order them from manufacturer Abbott.

Despite the UK’s well-documented issues with delays to tests, the government said it is pushing ahead with its own pilot schemes.

But it said it had no immediate plans to buy the Abbott test that is being purchased by the US government and the World Health Organization.

At the same time president Donald Trump announced a plan to disperse 150 million of the tests in the US.

The test in question developed by Abbott and SD Biosensor costs around $5, and the WHO has already bought around 120 million tests over six months to distribute in countries badly affected by the coronavirus.

In an email conversation with pharmaphorum a spokesperson for the UK’s Department of Health and Social Services said there were no immediate plans to order the test.

When asked if the UK had plans to order the Abbott test, seen by some as a game changer allowing lockdown measures to be relaxed, the spokesperson said “not at the moment”.

Instead the government is continuing with other plans, which include a pilot scheme for a fast test that can return results in 20 minutes.

It is also investing in a new coronavirus saliva test and 5,000 DNA “Nudgebox” machines, supplied by a firm called DNANudge, which will be rolled out across NHS hospitals in the UK to analyse DNA in nose swabs.

These provide positive or negative results for COVID-19 at the point of care.

It also has rapid LamPORE tests processing swab and saliva samples to detect the presence of COVID-19 in 60-90 minutes.

Downing Street last night said it had signed a contract with Southampton-based diagnostic firm Primerdesign for up to 300 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing devices, which will be placed in NHS hospitals from next month and will be able to process around 60,000 samples a day.

The UK government has been on the back foot over testing ever since signs of a second spike of coronavirus infections emerged at the beginning of this month.

Home test results have been delayed and some people have been told to travel for hundreds of miles to attend drive-through testing stations.

Yesterday the UK recorded just over 4,000 positive coronavirus cases, down from a weekend peak where more than 6,000 cases were recorded after lockdown rules were tightened across much of the country.