New 90-minute “life-saving” tests capable of detecting coronavirus and influenza will be rolled out in nursing homes and laboratories from next week.
The swab and “on-site” DNA testing will help distinguish between Covid-19 and other seasonal illnesses, the government said.
The health secretary said it would be “extremely beneficial” during the winter.
Currently, three quarters of test results are returned within 24 hours and one quarter can take up to two days.
The announcement comes as the government pushed back the July target of regularly testing nursing home staff and residents, saying the number of testing kits had become more limited.
Nearly half a million of the new rapid swab tests will be available from next week in adult care facilities and laboratories, with millions more expected to be rolled out later this year.
In addition, thousands of DNA testing machines, which have already been in use at eight London hospitals and can analyze nasal swabs, will be rolled out to NHS hospitals from September.
About 5,000 machines will deliver 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 deliver results on the spot in less than 90 minutes, helping us quickly break the chains of transmission.
“The fact that these tests can detect influenza as well as Covid-19 will be extremely beneficial as winter approaches, so that patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others.
By Lauren Moss, Health Correspondent
Much emphasis has been placed on how long it can take for Covid test results to come back and the impact this has on stopping 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 analyze swabs in mobile pop-up labs and deliver results within 90 minutes are extremely important.
No data on the accuracy of these tests has yet been made public, but those behind them say there are controls in place to check for false negatives.
And another big plus is that the tests are able to detect other winter illnesses, such as the flu, so doctors will know if a person with symptoms of coronavirus has the virus or something else.
It comes as authorities in Greater Manchester have insisted people should not be alarmed by a decision to declare a ‘major incident’ on Sunday evening in response to rising Covid-19 rates there.
Manchester City Council said the move was aimed at helping various agencies work together and mobilize additional resources.
Scotland’s national clinical director has warned of a ‘pullback’ to facilitate lockdown after a cluster of coronavirus cases have been linked to a pub in Aberdeen.
Meanwhile, Leicester – the first UK city to have a localized lockdown – will see pubs and restaurants reopen from Monday as a number of restrictions are lifted.
And a government program to encourage people to visit restaurants, cafes and pubs, UK customers has now launched – offering customers at 72,000 establishments 50% off meals purchased Monday through Wednesday in August .
Coronavirus tests are currently being carried out at drive-thru or walk-in sites, as well as at hospitals for patients and some NHS workers.
Home testing kits can also be delivered to someone’s door so that people can test themselves. Swab samples are analyzed in a laboratory before the result is transmitted to the individual.
Unlike other seasonal illnesses, people infected with Covid-19 must self-isolate for 10 days.
Professor Chris Toumazou, co-founder of DnaNudge, which supplied the machines providing the tests, said the “fast” and “very accurate” Covid-19 test can be deployed anywhere “with direct sampling to the result “.
Gordon Sanghera, managing director of Oxford Nanopore, which provided the tests, said they had the potential to provide an “accessible global test solution”.
Regular testing of residents and nursing home staff was due to start July 6, but officials said that may not be in place until the end of the first week of September.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said:
Meanwhile, researchers are making an urgent appeal for recovered patients to donate blood plasma – with the aim of helping the NHS treat people who become ill in the months to come.
A major trial is underway examining the effectiveness of transfusing blood plasma to patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response as a potential treatment for Covid-19.
Eight more deaths were reported in the UK on Sunday, bringing the total number of people who have died after testing positive for the virus to 46,201. However, the numbers tend to be lower on weekends due to delays in reports.
The latest government statistics also showed that 744 new cases had been confirmed within 24 hours as of 9 a.m. on Sunday.
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