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Minister Ashford's statement on COVID-19 - 1 June 2020

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I am delighted to be able to announce that we now have access to a verified anti-body test and we will be beginning to roll out a programme of testing to see how widespread COVID-19 has been in our community.  We have been able to purchase 10,000 tests and the first 5,000 tests have been delivered. 

So firstly its important to remember what antibody testing is.  Unlike the swab test that people are familiar with it does not test to tell if someone has the virus but looks for antibodies that show that some has previously had COVID-19.  It requires a formal blood test being undertaken and that blood sample then being checked for COVID-19 antibodies.   

So what will this testing tell us?  One of the things we know about COVID-19 is that it effects people differently. There are many people who show either no symptoms or very minor symptoms and may dismiss those symptoms as being something else.  So antibody testing will allow us to look at how widespread COVID-19 has been through our community. 

It is also important to emphasis what antibody testing does not do.  It does not mean if antibodies are found that the person is immune or can't get COVID-19 for a second time. Around the world we are still learning about this new virus and we do not know how long any immunity lasts.  So it is important to emphasise that the presence of antibodies does not imply some future immunity. 

So how are we going to undertake antibody testing.  Our focus for these first five thousand is to test the following groups: 

  • All hospital attendees through the Emergency Department who would already be having a blood test
  • Testing all blood test referrals both via GP and hospital outpatients including paediatrics
  • Close contacts and high risk contacts of confirmed cases
  • Blood donors
  • Antenatal patients undergoing routine blood tests
  • Healthcare workers including primary care and communities 
  • And also a random sample of negatively tested 111 callers

Using the above will allow us to get an appropriate mix of age, gender, geographical spread in order to build a picture of how far the virus has spread over the last few months.