A UK-wide antibody testing programme is to be launched for people who have tested positive for coronavirus, the Government has announced.
The programme, which will offer tests to thousands of adults per day, aims to improve understanding and gain “vital” data about antibody protection following Covid infection and vaccination.
From Tuesday, anyone over 18 from any of the four UK nations can opt in to the programme when receiving a PCR test.
Of those who test positive for coronavirus, up to 8,000 will be sent two finger prick antibody tests to complete at home and send back for analysis.
The first must be taken as soon as possible after the positive result, and the second must be taken 28 days later.
The UK Health Security Agency, which is running the programme, will work alongside NHS test and trace services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and use the results to monitor levels of antibodies in positive cases across the UK.
The Department of Health and Social Care says it will be the first time antibody tests have been made available to the general public, and the scheme could also provide insight into any groups of people who do not develop an immune response.
The data will be used to inform the ongoing approach to the pandemic and give further insight into the effectiveness of vaccines on new variants.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the programme will build on the “massive wall of defence” that is the UK vaccination programme.
“Our new national antibody testing will be quick and easy to take part in,” he said.
“By doing so you’ll be helping strengthen our understanding of Covid-19 as we cautiously return to a more normal life.”
Those taking part must take the first antibody test as soon as possible after receiving a positive PCR result so the body does not have time to generate a detectable antibody response to the infection.
The second test should be taken 28 days later and will measure antibodies generated in response to the infection.
UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said: “We are rolling out antibody testing across the UK to gain vital data into the impact of our vaccination programme.”
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