Coronavirus: 20 second COVID tests to launch in UK

LaToya Harding
·2 min read
BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 20: Members of various aid organizations are instructed at the Carl-von-Linné-Schule elementary school for handicapped children according to the train the teacher principle to train teachers on the application of rapid antigen tests during the novel coronavirus pandemic on February 20, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. The city of Berlin is launching a rapid test program to help schools reopen safely. Teaching staff will be tested with the help of trained colleagues weekly and in a second phase pupils will all receive free test kits that they can administer at home. Schools are reopening this coming week in several states across Germany under strict measures to contain the spread of the virus as best possible. (Photo by Steffi Loos/Getty Images)
The rapid test, known as Virolens, has been piloted at Heathrow Airport and uses swabs of the cheeks instead of through the nose and tonsils as pictured. Photo: Steffi Loos/Getty Images)

Regulators in Britain have given the green light to 20-second COVID rapid tests, the product’s distributor revealed late on Friday.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the registration of the fully-recyclable product, which is provided by London-based firm Histate.

The rapid test, known as Virolens, has been piloted at Heathrow Airport and uses swabs of the cheeks instead of through the nose and tonsils.

The company said it was hoping for a wider rollout over the coming months after trials indicated that the test had 98.1% sensitivity, meaning it returns few false negatives, and 99.7% specificity, meaning few false positives.

Histate added that "these figures are derived from trial data provided to MHRA, however, we believe that in practice the accuracy figures will be significantly higher".

“British designed and built, this new test shows that the UK can continue to play a major part in the global fight against COVID-19 and help to get the world moving again,” Histate director Joss Bassett said.

“The speed of the test, alongside the vaccine rollout, brings a return to normality within tangible reach, making the reopening of the economy and tourism safer for everyone.”

The move provides a vital step in Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown as rapid tests could be used in airports, sports and concert venues and businesses.

READ MORE: PM insists UK 'roadmap to freedom' is on track as shops get extended opening hours

On Friday, the UK government announced that non-essential retailers will be given extended opening hours to help businesses recover and customers to shop safely.

Under the new rules from 12 April, businesses will be able to stay open from 7am until 10pm from Monday to Saturday, after months of being closed.

The PM set out a four stage roadmap to guide England out of lockdown in February. Stage one saw schools reopen on 8 March as well as allowing people to meet with one person outdoors.

Under stage two, which is due to come into effect on Monday 29 March, the stay at home order will be lifted, outdoor gatherings will be allowed with the return of the rule of six.

More restrictions are due to be relaxed on 12 April, 17 May and 21 June — when the country is expected to go back to "normal life" depending on health data and vaccine rollout success.

So far almost 30 million people in the UK have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to official data.

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