UK COVID-19 test applications delayed by demand

A rush to access the government’s coronavirus system set up to provide tests for keyworkers brought it to a temporary halt. Scientists at Siemens have promised a new antibody test by the end of May.
By Piers Ford
09:49 am
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Credit: CDC

The UK government’s system allowing keyworkers to book COVID-19 tests stopped accepting applications just hours after going live, due to overwhelming demand.

The system was announced by the secretary of state for health Matt Hancock on 23 April and launched the following day but by mid-morning, visitors to the gov.uk web page were being told to check back later.

The Department of Health and Social Care apologised for the inconvenience, which it put down to significant demand, and said it was continuing to “rapidly increase” availability.

“More tests will be available tomorrow,” it tweeted.

Testing continues to dominate the agenda of governments and healthcare providers as scientists increase their efforts to develop tests that will deliver results in shorter time-frames – helping to create a better understanding of how the disease affects their populations.

Siemens Healthineers is expanding its SARS-CoV-2 testing to include a total antibody test that it hopes will accommodate more than 25 million tests per month by June.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

The company hopes the test will be available by late May on its multiple lab-based analysers, and capable of delivering a result in as little as 14 minutes.

It will provide a clear view of patients’ disease progression by identifying people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus but have developed an immune response, even if they are asymptomatic or have never been diagnosed with the disease.

Siemens Healthineers claims it has demonstrated specificity and sensitivity of greater than 99%.

WHAT'S THE TREND

The test will be available on the company’s Atellica Solution immunoassay analyser, which can run up to 440 tests per hour. It is also expected to be available on the the installed base of ADVIA Centaur XP and XPT analysers, which deliver up to 240 tests per hour, with a result in 18 minutes. Availability of this test on these industry leading platforms ensures more patients are tested in a shorter time.

ON THE RECORD

“Siemens Healthineers is working diligently to address the need for high-quality tests in the fight against COVID-19,” said Dr Deepak Nath, president of laboratory diagnostics at the company.

“This test is being designed with the precision and controls, sensitivity and specificity that laboratories have come to expect from our immunoassay tests. I am especially proud of the dedication of our colleagues involved in development of this test—many of whom are based at the US epicenter of the pandemic.”

 

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