Coronavirus home test kits: Everything you need to know

Thousands of coronavirus home test kits were due to be sold in Boots and delivered by Amazon. Here's all the details

coronavirus home test kits
(Image credit: Getty)

The UK goverment planned to issue millions of coronavirus home test kits to determine if you've got coronavirus, and recovered from it, in just 15 minutes. These would have (and still may) be available from retailers such as Boots and Amazon in the very near future, according to a director of Public Health England (PHE).

The UK government ordered 3.5 million coronavirus test kits, initially targeted at key workers, with many more on the way, but trials of the tests conducted by Oxford University have not yielded reliable results so far. 

In a statement to the UK government's Science and Technology Committee made on March 25, Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at PHE, said:

"In the near future people will be able to order a test that they can test themselves, or go to Boots, or somewhere similar to have their finger prick test done.

“Several million tests have been purchased for use. These are brand new products. We have to be clear they work as they are claimed to do.

“Once they have been tested this week and the bulk of tests arrive, they will be distributed into the community.”

However, FullFact reported health minister Edward Argar clarified Professor Peacock's comments on March 26, saying “good progress” was being made with the testing kit's development, but he "[didn’t] want to set an artificial timeline” and would not give a specific date for these tests' availability. 

On March 29, Health Secretary Matt Hancock Tweeted the UK government was testing 10,000 people a day and is "well on its way" to 25,000. 

Its target by the end of April is to test 100,000 people per day, although it has hit a snag: on March 30, key components from overseas needed for the coronavirus tests being produced were found to have been contaminated with the virus itself. 

The commercial tests were reportedly due to hit warehouses and shelves by May. However, leading researchers from Oxford university found the antibody tests are so far proving unreliable. 

"Sadly, the tests we have looked at to date have not performed well,” wrote Professor John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, in a Financial Times article published on April 6. Unless reliable results can be generated, these tests will not be commercially available in the near future.

Coronavirus home testing kit

(Image credit: CDC on Unsplash)

How do coronavirus home test kits work?

The tests take the form of antibody tests, done with just a prick of the finger. You'll be able to pop the blood into a well on the test stick and it will check if the user has developed coronavirus-fighting antibodies. Wide availability of these tests will allow key workers like doctors, nurses and supermarket employees to be able to return to work if they have had and recovered from the virus.

However, before retailers like Amazon and Boots are allowed to distribute the blood-testing kits, they have to be road-tested in a laboratory to ensure they're working as required. At time of writing, scientists from Oxford University have not generated good enough results to authorise the tests' release.

There's also currently no word on how much the kits will cost. Keep checking back: we'll provide links to where you can find the kits, how much they'll cost and more as soon as the information becomes available.

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans now works for sister brand TechRadar, covering all things relating to fitness and wellness. He came to as staff writer before moving on, and was previously on Men's Health, and slightly counterintuitively, a website devoted to the consumption of Scotch whiskey. In his free time, he could often be found with his nose in a book until he discovered the Kindle.