NHS Forth Valley cannot wait for new test for COVID-19 to arrive

The head of public health in Forth Valley admitted he was excited about the prospect of a new COVID-19 test which will be able to tell if someone has had the virus at any point.

By James Trimble
Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 9:02 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 9:02 am

The new test, developed by pharmaceutical firm Roche, involves taking a small sample of blood and testing it for antibodies which will indicate exposure to COVID-19.

It is believed the test, which is said to be 100 per cent accurate, could be a breakthrough in the fight against coronavirus.

During yesterday’s NHS Forth Valley briefing, Doctor Graham Foster, director of public health for the area, said: “It’s a really exciting development, Up until now we have only had one test which only tells us one thing – if people have COVID-19 at the moment.

Dr Graham Foster, NHS Forth Valley director of public health.

“This new test will tell us if people have had COVID-19 at any point.”

Doctor Foster said the antibody testing will be important when it comes to relaxing the lockdown restrictions and stoping the virus spreading so we lower the risk of a second spike in COVID-19 numbers.

“We can’t refer anyone for the tests just yet,” Doctor Foster added.

Swab testing being carried out in Forth Valley at the moment looks for the presence of viral genes in the nose or throat and can only detect signs of an active infection.

The new blood test can detect active infections, too, but more importantly, it can tell whether a person has been infected in the past because the body retains antibodies against pathogens it has already overcome.

The UK Government plans to roll out the new test to front-line workers – including those in health and social care – first, but it is hoped the test will eventually become available to the wider public, although it is not yet clear if whether that will be through the NHS or through commercial websites.

Roche has stated it will be able to provide hundreds of thousands of antibody tests to the UK every week.

Visit www.nhsinform.scot for up to date information.