Immunity forms planned to allow survivors to be freed from distancing

Matt Hancock announced yesterday contracts for 10 million antibody tests had been signed that would be given to NHS and care workers from next week. The Health Secretary told yesterday's Downing Street briefing: 'We're developing this critical science to know the impact of a positive antibody test and to develop the systems of certification to ensure people who have positive antibodies can be given assurances of what they can safely do.' Earlier this month, a spokesman for Boris Johnson said there was the possibility of issuing some kind of certificate based on immunity but that scientists still needed to know more about that subject area. But ministers hope that if scientists do prove immunity exists, certificates will allow people to return to the workforce and to ditch social distancing regulations. Gallery: How countries are edging out of Covid-19 lockdown (Photo Services) Even as the world continues to battle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, several countries, where the daily growth of new infections has reduced, are beginning to take tentative steps to ease lockdown measures in order to allow citizens to move freely for the first time in weeks and to revive the economy. This could allow an elderly patient with a positive result to go to hospital for hip surgery, in the knowledge that they were highly unlikely to catch the virus on the ward. The NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: 'This could be a game changer – and it is great that we now have a reliable antibody test. The Department of Health hopes to carry out 40,000 antibody tests a week although they will initially be performed in hospitals rather than at home. Without the system in place, scientific advisers on Downing Street's SAGE committee say that Britain cannot ease its lockdown without triggering a catastrophic second spike. It comes amid mounting pressure on the Health Secretary after he repeatedly failed to deliver on his ambitious promise of 100,000 coronavirus tests per day. On the Government's 'test, track and trace' programme, Mr Hancock sought to play down the importance of the delayed app. The Government is aiming for 25,000 human contact tracers to be in place for June 1 - the earliest date for opening schools and non-essential shops in England. Mr Hancock said trials of the app in the Isle of Wight had shown the human contact tracing elements were also important so people can understand the consequences of what is required if they have been near someone with coronavirus. Professor John Newton, of Public Health England, said there could be advantages in doing the contact tracing process without the app initially. It came after mounting pressure on Mr Johnson from senior Tories, with former party chairman Lord Patten calling the charge 'appalling' and 'monstrous'. The decision came a day after another U-turn when the Government extended a scheme offering indefinite leave to remain to the families of all NHS staff who die as a result of contracting coronavirus.