FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk along a platform at King's Cross Station, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, July 12, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

A national Covid-19 antibody surveillance programme has been launched by the UK Health Security Agency to collect data to build the government’s understanding of immunity against the virus.

The government on Sunday (Aug 22) announced that free home antibody tests kits would be offered to adults in the UK who test positive for the virus from Tuesday.

Up to 8,000 people out of those who opt in and get a positive PCR result will then be sent two finger prick antibody tests which they can use at home before sending back to a lab for analysis. The initiative is for surveillance only and the numbers will be limited to 8,000 per day.

The UK Health Security Agency will work alongside NHS Test and Trace testing services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to monitor levels of antibodies in positive cases across the UK.

The data collected will help estimate the proportion of those who got Covid-19 despite developing antibodies as a result of having a vaccine or previously catching coronavirus.

Sajid Javid, the secretary of state for health and social care, said: “Our new national antibody testing will be quick and easy to take part in, and by doing so you’ll be helping strengthen our understanding of Covid-19 as we cautiously return to a more normal life.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, the Covid-19 strategic response director of Public Health England, said:  “Our testing armoury is stronger than ever now we are rolling out antibody testing to thousands of people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland alongside the vast testing capacity we have built including our NHS Test and Trace system.”

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