A government study estimates about 17 per cent of Londoners have antibodies to coronavirus, while the figure is around five per cent in the rest of the country, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
He announced that the government will begin offering NHS antibody tests next week and will make 10 million available in the next few months. Ministers have signed deals for the tests with Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche and US company Abbott, and scientists are assessing tests from three other companies.
The government will prioritise NHS and care workers for the first wave of testing.
Scientists still do not know whether antibodies provide immunity against a second infection, he said.
Lastly, he revealed the government has begun trialling a rapid coronavirus swab test that can deliver results in 20 minutes. The test, from UK firm OptiGene, will tell people if they are currently infected, and does not require any lab work.