Britain on Thursday said it was investing in trials of a 20 minute COVID-19 test, with a view to rolling out widespread, systematic testing to pick up outbreaks early, amid criticism over backlogs in its current testing system.
Health minister Matt Hancock has said he hopes mass testing using faster COVID-19 tests can be rolled out towards the end of the year, adding that they are key to restoring freedoms after months of COVID-19 restrictions.
“I want to solve the problem by having the next generation tests at a radically bigger scale. You can’t do that on the current technology very easily,” he told BBC television.
Asked when it would be available for everyone, he said: “Over the coming weeks and months ahead. We’re starting the roll out today.”
Britain is looking to develop tests which do not need to be read in a lab, giving results in a matter of minutes, rather than the current next-day target.
On Thursday, the health ministry said it would put 500 million pounds ($666 million) into trials of rapid COVID-19 tests and into population-testing for the disease.
The funding will be used to expand existing trials of saliva tests and a rapid 20-minute test in southern England.
A saliva test has been approved for use on an emergency basis in the US after a trial on National Basketball Association players and staff, while Italy, Belgium and France are also trialing saliva tests.
A new, community trial in Salford, northwest England, will assess also the benefit of population-testing, under which people are regularly tested regardless of whether they have symptoms, so that any cases can be picked up before they have spread widely.