NHS and care staff in England, along with eligible patients and service users, will receive free antibody tests under a new scheme beginning this week.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the tests will be prioritised for healthcare staff, while doctors in hospital and social care settings will be able to request tests for patients.
These new tests will go a step further than the current swab testing programme, which tells subjects whether they currently have the virus.
The new antibody tests will tell users whether they have previously contracted COVID-19 and developed antibodies, potentially making them immune to reinfection.
Meanwhile, the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit in rolling out the tests.
Matt Hancock commented: “Today we have signed contracts to supply over 10 million tests from Roche and Abbott supply in the coming months. From next week, we will begin rolling these out in a phased way. At first, to health and care staff, patients and residents.
“This is an important milestone and it represents further progress in our national testing programme. Knowing you have these antibodies will help us to understand in the future if you are at lower risk of catching coronavirus, dying from coronavirus and of transmitting coronavirus.
“History has shown that understanding an enemy is fundamental to defeating it. In this latest fight, our ingenuity and our brilliant scientists and our scientific curiosity is what will keep us one step ahead of this virus.
“We all have something to bring though in this fight – one action every one of us can take is to follow the rules on hygiene and social distancing. Not just for you, but for your loved ones and for your community. So please, stay alert, control the virus and save lives.”