Coronavirus home testing kits have been the subject of much discussion over recent weeks, as scientists working on behalf of the government seek to understand how effective the tests are, how they should be distributed and when they might become widely available.
We'll preface this article by stating that, as of yet, there's no news on when the tests will become available to the general public. This is because currently – and rightly so – the focus is on ensuring that all frontline NHS staff and other key workers are being tested regularly, and rigorously, before attention turns to the rest of the population. That said, Public Health England have suggested that millions of coronavirus home testing kits are set to become available to the general public – we're just not sure exactly when that will be.
Below you'll find answers to key questions relating to the proposed home testing kits, with information sourced directly from UK government. But, before reading, please note that – irrespective of any tests that may become available in future – at the present time you're still much better to stay indoors, away from others not in your household, to maintain social distancing when you have to go out, to avoid touching your face and to always wash your hands when you get back. And, of course, if you're displaying symptoms, you should self-isolate for seven days, and your family for 14 days.
And remember – think of others when you buy. Please don't stockpile.
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How will the Coronavirus home test kit work?
In order to test yourself, you'll be required to draw a small amount of blood. This can be done by pricking your finger with a sterilised needle that will form part of the home testing kit.
From there, the kit is expected to use antibody testing to reveal whether or not you have been exposed to the virus, and become immune. This will be useful in determining whether individuals can safely leave their homes and return to work without risk of being infected.
How accurate are Coronavirus home testing kits?
One of the reasons there's been a delay to the distribution of coronavirus home testing kits – by which we mean kits that test for antibodies and tell you if you've had the virus and built up immunity, not tests that tell you if you currently have it – is because of concerns over accuracy.
While a handful of tests which manufacturers suggest are reliable exist, there is not presently a test available that has passed independent laboratory testing and consequently been approved by Public Health England, or the UK government.
Until such a kit is approved, it would be impossible to know just how reliable these kits really are. Though, the existence of potential tests is something that we should feel optimistic about.
Where will Coronavirus home testing kits be available?
Speaking on the 25th March 2020, Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at PHE stated:
'In the near future people will be able to order a test that they can test themselves, or go to Boots, or somewhere similar to have their finger prick test done.'
Aside from Boots, there has also been some suggestion that the tests might be available on Amazon.
Following on from this, FullFact reported health minister Edward Argar clarifying that while 'good progress' was being made with the testing kit's development, there was no desire to 'set an artificial timeline' as to when the tests might become available to the general public.
Furthermore, as most businesses are shut, knowing you are immune is only of use to those assisting someone vulnerable – we are not at the stage where people can use it to decide to stop isolating.