Two tests that can diagnose the coronavirus and the flu within 90 minutes are set to be introduced in hospitals, care homes and laboratories as the country prepares to face the pandemic in winter.
Nearly half a million of the LamPORE swab tests will be rolled out to adult care homes and laboratories from next week, with millions more to be made available in coming months.
The swab and DNA tests will aid doctors and the NHS test-and-trace system to differentiate between the viruses, allowing those with Covid-19 to effectively self-isolate.
Some 5,000 DNA test machines, which analyse nasal swabs, will be issued to NHS hospitals from September and are expected to provide 5.8 million tests later this year. The machines, supplied by DnaNudge, are already in use in eight London hospitals.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will provide on-the-spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly.
“The fact these tests can detect flu as well as Covid-19 will be hugely beneficial as we head into winter, so patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others.”
Mr Hancock thanked DnaNudge and Oxford Nanopore for the “excellent work” they have done to “push forward these life-saving innovations in coronavirus testing”.
The government announcement follows a leaked memo from Professor Jane Cummings, the government’s adult social care testing director, which led the Department of Health and Social Care to deny it had dropped its commitment to regularly test care home residents throughout the summer.
Prof Cummings informed local authority leaders that “previously advised timelines for rolling out regular testing in care homes” were being affected by “unexpected delays”, the Sunday Times reported.
Testing has been pushed back from 6 July to 7 September for older people and those with dementia, with a department spokesperson confirming it was having problems with “asymptomatic retesting”.
Almost two-thirds of care homes are yet to have their first round of asymptomatic testing, according to the same newspaper.
Professor Chris Toumazou, co-founder of DnaNudge and founder of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “The DnaNudge team worked with incredible speed and skill during the peak of the pandemic to deliver this highly accurate, rapid Covid-19 test, which requires absolutely no laboratory or pipettes.”
Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore, said: “LamPORE has the potential to deliver a highly effective and, crucially, accessible global testing solution, not only for Covid-19 but for a range of other pathogens.”