Britain ‘paid £16m’ for two million coronavirus antibody tests from China that DON’T WORK as officials now scramble to try to get the money back
- UK government is said to have bought the tests from two Chinese companies
- The price was $20 million but tests then proved not to be sufficiently accurate
- UK now trying to get money back as search continues for working antibody test
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Britain paid two Chinese companies an estimated £16 million for two million coronavirus antibody tests which officials then found were not accurate enough to be rolled out.
The UK, along with every other country in the world, is still trying to find a test which can be mass produced which shows if someone has had the disease and now has immunity to it.
The government pounced on an early offer of potential tests produced in China with the New York Times reporting officials agreed to pay approximately $20 million to secure the home testing kits.
However, when the antibody tests were put through their paces they were found not to be sufficiently accurate and as a result could not be used.
Officials are now scrambling to try to get the money back.
Boris Johnson, pictured at a Downing Street press conference in March, said a working anti-body test would be a ‘game-changer’ in the fight against coronavirus
Downing Street today did not deny the claims but the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said he was not aware of the specific $20 million figure.
The spokesman said: ‘Where tests are shown not to have any prospect of working then we will seek to recover as much of the costs as we can.’
Officials have previously insisted that they had only purchased the minimum number of antibody test needed to conduct initial trials with full orders contingent on the kits actually working.
Mr Johnson spoke about the importance of antibody tests on March 19 as he revealed the UK was in negotiations for the kits.
He said at the time: ‘We are in negotiations today to buy a so called antibody test, as simple as a pregnancy test, that could tell whether you have had the disease.
‘And it’s early days, but if it works as its proponents claim then we will buy literally hundreds of thousands of these kits as soon as practicable because obviously it has the potential to be a total game-changer.’
Coronavirus testing can currently be split into two types: Antigen and antibody.
The antigen test is the one currently being carried out across the nation which shows if someone has coronavirus.
But antibody tests would be able to show if someone has already had the disease and if they have some resistance to it which would allow that person to return to normal life.
Mass produced antibody tests are therefore seen by many as the key to restarting the UK’s creaking economy.
Professor John Newton told the Science and Technology Select Committee on April 8 that none of the antibody tests assessed by the government so far were up to scratch
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced at the start of April that he had appointed Professor John Newton as the UK’s testing tsar.
Prof Newton has been tasked with ramping up the government’s testing operation.
He told MPs on April 8 that none of the antibody tests assessed by the government so far had worked well enough to be rolled out.
He said experts had set a ‘clear target’ for the reliability of the tests but that of the devices assessed to date ‘none of them frankly were close’ to hitting it.
Despite the bleak outlook, Prof Newton insisted he and his scientists were still ‘reasonably optimistic’ of a breakthrough in the near future.