Next week, the Government will begin offering antibody tests to health and care staff, eligible patients and care residents in England to see if they have had coronavirus, representing further progress in our national testing programme.

Antibody testing will play a critically important role as we move into the next phase of our response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Knowing if you have these antibodies will help us to understand more about the virus in the future.

 Yesterday, the Government signed contracts to supply over 10 million tests from Roche and Abbott in the coming months. From next week, we will begin rolling these out in a phased way; this programme will prioritise our NHS and care staff, where there is a clear value in knowing who has had the virus. 

 It is important to emphasise that the Government does not yet know whether having antibodies means you are immune to this virus, so testing positive for antibodies will not mean people no longer have to abide by the current social distancing measures. It remains vital that everyone continues to Stay Alert, Control the Virus, and Save Lives.

Today also marks the first day of a trial of a new rapid coronavirus test which could speed up the time it takes to get a test result, helping us to control the virus and save lives.

The trial of a new, rapid coronavirus test that does not need to be sent to a laboratory to be processed will begin in Hampshire today, with results being returned in just 20 minutes.

 Up to 4,000 people of all ages and backgrounds will participate in the pilot, which will run for up to six weeks. It will be led by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust, and trained health professionals will take a swab and process the results on-site.

 This new test could provide accurate results almost on the spot, enabling health and care workers to carry on with their shift or to immediately isolate if they test positive. This could change the way that we control Covid-19 across the country, getting those with negative results back into society as quickly as possible.

Finally, work is currently under way to ensure healthcare workers are exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge in light of the fantastic contribution they make to the NHS.

The purpose of the NHS surcharge is to benefit the NHS, help to care for the sick and save lives. 

 NHS and care workers from abroad who are granted visas are doing this already by the fantastic contribution which they make, which is why all NHS workers – as well as independent health workers and social care workers – will now be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.
 Work by Government is now underway on how to implement the change and full details will be announced in the coming days.

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