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23 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Government launches mass coronavirus study that will test 300,000 people at home

By Samuel Horti

The government has today announced a mass coronavirus testing study that will eventually recruit 300,000 people across the UK.

The study, which will start with a pilot of 25,000 people, will ask participants to swab their nose and throat and answer questions from a health worker who will visit their home. The study will test whether someone has the virus, and the government will separately ask adults from 1,000 households to provide a blood sample, taken by a trained nurse, phlebotomist or healthcare assistant, to determine whether they have developed antibodies to Covid-19.

They will be asked to take a test every week for the first five weeks of the study, then every month for 12 months. People will take the swab tests whether they have symptoms of coronavirus or not. Those asked to take part will be contacted shortly and will form a representative sample of the UK population by age and geography.

The results will help scientists and ministers better understand the spread of the virus and make decisions about easing the lockdown. Initial findings are expected in early May. The study, led by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), will eventually recruit up to around 300,000 people over the next 12 months.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This survey will help to track the current extent of transmission and infection in the UK, while also answering crucial questions about immunity as we continue to build up our understanding of this new virus.

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“Together, these results will help us better understand the spread of the virus to date, predict the future trajectory and inform future action we take, including crucially the development of ground-breaking new tests and treatments.”

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