Mass testing the public for Covid-19 could lead to the rest of society being able to reopen – including sports grounds and theatres, one expert has said.
Gordon Sanghera, chief executive of Oxford Nanopore Technologies, said that mass testing could lead to the introduction of health passports which would allow people who test negative for Covid-19 “access all areas”.
Introducing tests for everyone once or twice a week would mean that people who have the virus but who are not yet showing symptoms could be “taken out of society and quarantined to minimise infection”, he said.
Rapid coronavirus test
Oxford Nanopore Technologies is one of two companies which has introduced a rapid coronavirus test which promises results within 90 minutes.
The Department of Health and Social Care announced that two tests which can detect coronavirus and flu are to be rolled out in hospitals, care homes and laboratories.
NEWS: Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will provide on-the-spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly.— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) August 3, 2020
I am hugely grateful to DnaNudge and Oxford Nanopore for pushing forward these life-saving innovations in #coronavirus testing. pic.twitter.com/ulxHoSc6FB
The swab and DNA tests will help deal with the virus in winter, enabling clinicians and NHS Test and Trace to differentiate between Covid-19, which requires sufferers to undergo specific self-isolation, and other seasonal illnesses, the Department of Health said.
It announced plans for millions of tests – LamPORE swab tests by Oxford Nanopore and DnaNudge DNA test machines – to be rolled out across health and care settings.
But experts behind the tests said that there are far reaching implications for the innovations – such as the possibility of reopening sporting grounds or live music events.
Sporting grounds and live music events
Mr Sanghera said the way to getting society back “out there” was routine mass testing.
He told the PA news agency: “The way to get everybody back to work, back to school, back to university, back to bars and restaurants, back to the theatre, back to your favourite sports, is to have routine mass testing; find people. Then asymptomatic people can be taken out of society and quarantine to minimise infection. Whilst all being back out there.”
He said Covid-19 will be around for some time, but added: “The innovation we’re bringing to the table today, and others (will help create) capability to be able to do mass routine testing week in, week out for everybody.
“And that will allow us to open up bars, restaurants, football grounds, rugby, sport, theatres, everything.
“All of that can come back and it wouldn’t be that difficult to have a health passport where you test once a week. And if you’re actively tested and negative. You’ve, you know, access all areas if you like.”
The company is going to start routinely testing all employees next week so they drop a saliva sample first thing in the morning to a test centre with results back by lunch.
The test will be available commercially in the next two to three weeks and will cost around £20 to £40 per test.
Meanwhile, The DnaNudge Covid test, does not need complex healthcare training for its implementation.
Only simple training is required to deliver the tests, meaning that people who are not healthcare staff can administer the tests.
“It’s bringing the lab to the patient, rather than the patient to the lab,” Professor Chris Toumazou, co-founder of DnaNudge told PA.
He said the technology originally started off as a consumer application for genetic testing.
“What we’ve done is we’ve just changed the pattern on the chip of what we’re detecting and we’re detecting now the DNA of the virus.
“And so, so the same speed, the same utility and the untrained professional to use it – we were having nutritionists and beauticians running this in the consumer world.
“We’ve already been talking to various orchestras – we’ve got one or two back into practice, we’ve spoken to gyms.”
Health and care frontlines
But he said the first step is to get rapid testing to health and care frontlines.
Prof Toumazou said rapid testing in the healthcare world could have implications like knowing whether or not an expectant mother in labour has the virus, or those coming in for elective surgery.
“In maternity wards, the ability to test a mother who’s going into labour or going into a C section, and knowing that she won’t have to part on her baby for 48 hours, because she’s corona free,” he said.
“Or taking it to elective surgery wards where a cancer patient can be now operated on, and they only have to wait an hour for a result, rather than waiting for the 48 hours that’s required for laboratory test.”
Care homes, GP and dental surgeries could be next to receive the test and other emergency services. Schools would also benefit.
Then further sectors of society will be able to employ rapid testing facilities.
He added: “Anywhere where you can take the technology close to the patient and you need to sort of open up the economy in a rapid way, is where I think the Nudge test will have a great future.”
The test, which is commercially available, will cost between £30 and £40.