Can I get the new Covid-19 antibody test?

A test to determine whether people have been infected with coronavirus in the past has been approved by health officials and will be rolled out across the country from next week. Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche and American rival Abbott Laboratories have each developed a test which can tell whether somebody has ever had the coronavirus. It involves taking a small sample of blood and testing it for antibodies which will indicate exposure to coronavirus. Public Health England (PHE) has evaluated the tests and approved them as being safe and reliable for widespread use. It also has a specificity of at least 99.8%, meaning there is only very small room for tests to come back as false positive. At present, the science is inconclusive as to whether a positive test result for antibodies means a person is immune to Covid-19, or whether or not they can be re-infected with the virus, or pass it on. In the meantime, if someone tests positive, they will still need to follow social distancing measures and appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Clinicians will be able to request tests for patients in hospital and in social care settings if they deem it appropriate. For care staff, the roll out will be phased across regions, with the Government and local leaders to decide the most appropriate places to start. A blood sample is processed by centrifuging or spinning it using automated equipment already installed at NHS sites across the UK. This makes a part of the blood called the serum, which contains antibodies for all sorts of things, rise to the top. On a large scale, it could also provide essential information for tracking where the disease has been and forecasting future hot spots.