“I think it’s very exciting that there’s a very, very reliable, possibly even 100% reliable, antibody test,” he said.
Jonathan Van Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, appearing alongside Shapps, said the new Roche test would be “rapidly rolled out as soon as it is practical to do so”, with an initial focus on NHS and care staff.
“I think it will be incredibly important as the days, weeks, months go by,” Van Tam said, while noting that it was still unknown whether contracting the virus gave people immunity, and if so for how long.
If there was long-term immunity, Shapps said, “for sure it would be game-changing, because it would enable us to do things in terms of releasing lockdowns that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”
A second major pharmaceutical and diagnostics company, Abbott, followed Roche in announcing that its lab-based antibody test had been validated by public health bodies in England, Scotland and Wales. They found that the Abbott test was between 99.73% and 100% specific for antibodies that appear in the blood as the immune system fights Covid-19 infection. The Roche test was found to be 99.81% specific and 100% sensitive.