Britain gives go-ahead to 20-second COVID-19 test, distributor says

FILE PHOTO: A member of NHS Test and Trace staff sets up a mobile testing centre amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Moston area of Manchester, Britain, February 17, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) -A 20-second COVID-19 test will launch in Britain after regulators accepted its registration, the product’s distributor said on Friday, heralding a testing system it said could be used in airports, sports venues and businesses.

Rapid tests are seen as a key plank of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, but concerns have been expressed about the accuracy of existing lateral flow devices.

The Virolens test, which is made by British start-up iAbra and TT Electronics, has been piloted at Heathrow Airport, and uses swabs of saliva.

Histate, which is distributing the test, said it would launch with immediate effect after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) accepted the registration of the product, and the company said it was hoping for a wider rollout in coming months.

The MHRA does not issue approvals for COVID-19 tests in the way it does for vaccines, having determined they are effective, but registers medical devices with a certification mark if they meet legal criteria, are safe and are made to the standard specified by the manufacturer for the stated purpose.

Histate said trials had indicated the test had 98.1% sensitivity, meaning it returns few false negatives, and 99.7% specificity, meaning few false positives.

Reporting by Alistair Smout, Editing by Paul Sandle