A coronavirus test that can give results in 20 minutes is being trialled, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
The swab test, which will tell people if they currently have coronavirus, has proved effective in clinical settings and does not need to be sent to a laboratory to be processed.
Currently, test results should take up to two to three days to be returned, but there has been some criticism that people have waited days or weeks for their results.
The health secretary said the new test, if trialled successfully, could “change the way that we control COVID-19 across the country, getting those with negative results back into society as quickly as possible”.
During the government’s daily news briefing, Mr Hancock said the new test will be trialled on a smaller scale to “monitor its effectiveness” and if it works “we’ll roll it out as soon as we can”.
The trial is beginning in Hampshire and will be rolled out in a number of settings, including AE departments without access to laboratories, GP coronavirus testing hubs and care homes.
Up to 4,000 people of different ages and backgrounds will take part in the six-week pilot.
The new test, produced by UK company OptiGene, could provide accurate results “almost on the spot”, Mr Hancock said.
“This will enable health and care workers to carry on with their shift or immediately isolate on the same day, and could eventually offer the same benefit to the whole country,” he added.
The test can offer faster results than the current test as it does not need to be processed at different temperatures, meaning it does not need to be sent to a laboratory.
In AE departments and GP hubs, patients with symptoms will be prioritised for the new test.
Staff and residents in care homes will be tested regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.
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Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Alex Whitfield said: “We are tremendously excited to be able to support the government’s efforts for ever more accessible, faster coronavirus testing.”
The health secretary also announced the government has signed contracts to supply 10 million antibody tests from Roche and Abbott, which can tell if someone has previously had COVID-19 and could potentially be immune from the virus.
The tests will first be given to health care workers, patients and care home residents from next week.