Weekend warning as antibody tests are unveiled
Ahead of bank holiday, government says national coronavirus death toll has now reached 36,042
22 May, 2020 — By Helen Chapman
Health secretary Matt Hancock
HEALTH secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday (Thursday) that tests to see whether people have developed antibodies to the coronavirus are due begin next week.
He was speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing where it was also confirmed there had been a further 338 deaths from Covid-19 over the previous 24 hours. The UK’s total death toll stands at 36,042.
Mr Hancock said the antibody tests would be rolled out in a “phased way” starting with NHS staff and care workers.
They could provide new information on how many people have encountered the virus since the outbreak began. Given many people with symptoms were not tested when they were ill, and others were asymptomatic, it has not been clear how far the disease has spread.
Mr Hancock said the introduction of the tests was an “important milestone”, adding: “It is not just about the clinical advancements that these tests can bring, it is about knowing how these antibodies will help in the future for us to know if you are at risk of the virus.”
He said the government was not in a position to say anyone who tests positive for having had the coronavirus is immune from being infected again.
And it is also unknown whether how long immunity, if it does exist after an infection, would last.
Around 17 per cent of people in London have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, according to a sample, he said. The figure nationwide is 5 per cent.
Mr Hancock urged the public to follow social distancing rules over the bank holiday weekend.
“We must renew our efforts,” he added.