The first of two new COVID-19 tests that can return results in just over an hour is being rolled out across the UK next week
Two new coronavirus tests that can return results in just over an hour are set to be released in the UK, the government has announced.
The first test will be released next week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed in a statement on Monday, while the second will be rolled out from September.
He said the on-the-spot checks will be able to detect winter flu as well as COVID-19 and would be "hugely beneficial" in breaking the chain of transmission as the winter months approach.
"We’re using the most innovative technologies available to tackle coronavirus," Hancock said in the statement.
"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."
This rapid testing will hugely pull back the average amount of time it currently takes for results to be returned — while it may take a few hours to determine a positive case of the virus in a lab, the diagnosis can sometimes take anywhere between 24 hours and several days to reach the patient.
So what's the difference between the current testing procedures and the two new ones being rolled out?
How do the new tests work?
Rapid LamPORE tests are being released next week and will involve taking a swab for a saliva sample — similar to the widely used PCR test kit.
Using technology developed by Oxford Nanopore, the test specifically identifies and amplifies the virus in the swab.
Unlike the commonly used PCR test, this new rapid check will be able to process results in on-location "pop-up labs" rather than being sent away, giving a person their result between 60 and 90 minutes.
These will be processed via a desktop machine called GridION, which can take up to 15,000 tests per day, while a palm-sized version, MinION, will be able to process a further 2,000 daily.
The second test will be rolled out next month and involves testing DNA for the virus.
Developed by DnaNudge, thousands of machines called Nudgeboxes will be deployed to analyse nose swabs for COVID-19 within 90 minutes.
They can each process 15 on-the-spot tests per day without needing to send samples to a lab.
Regius Professor Chris Toumazou FRS, CEO and co-founder of DnaNudge, praised his company's test for being able to bypass the use of a laboratory or pipettes to hasten the process.
He added: "With the ability to test not only for COVID-19 but also FluA, FluB and RSV on the same single COVID-19 Nudge cartridge, our multiplex test offers a vital solution to protect the NHS as we head into the flu season."
How many are there?
A total of 450,000 LamPORE will be rolled out to British adult care settings, NHS laboratories and lighthouse laboratories next week.
Millions more are expected to be released later in the year.
For the DNA tests, 5,000 Nudgeboxes will be released in September with hopes of processing 5.8 million tests in the months afterwards.
Where can we get them?
Adult care settings, NHS laboratories and lighthouse laboratories will have access to the LamPORE test, while Nudgeboxes will be supplied to NHS hospitals.
They are currently being used in eight hospitals — all in London — and are found in wards where patients are most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as cancer wards, accident and emergency, and maternity wards.