Do Matt Hancock's new coronavirus tests even work? Scientists urge government ...

Ministers were today asked to prove that two new rapid coronavirus tests bought to bolster Britain's war on coronavirus even work. 

The tests – which give results in 90 minutes – will start being rolled out from next week. One is so simple it could soon be deployed in airports, offices, pubs and restaurants – bringing testing to the bulk of the population.

A leading scientist today suggested they should be used to regularly screen children to prevent outbreaks in schools when pupils return in September. 

But, despite being hailed as 'life-saving' by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, there is no publicly available data about their effectiveness. Experts today called on Number 10 to confirm both tests are accurate by releasing research on the new devices. 

The government has already wasted millions of pounds by purchasing Covid tests that were later found to be inaccurate — including two different types of antibody test from China. 

Professor Jon Deeks, a medical statistician at Birmingham University, warned the mistakes made in purchasing tests has even 'put lives at risk' because infected Brits could easily pass the virus on if they are wrongly told they are free of the virus.

He said: 'We cannot emphasise how important it is to see independent evaluations of all tests before they are implemented.' 

The tests were purchased as the Government looks to halt a second wave of the disease, stopping the need for more draconian lockdowns and restart the stalled economy.

Similar rapid diagnostic Covid-19 tests have been approved in the US for months.

Tests can be legally sold in Britain when they receive a CE mark. But one of the kits bought by ministers has yet to be given the European seal of approval. UK regulators gave the other test an 'exceptional use authorisation'.

Under normal circumstances, health chiefs evaluate tests in a laboratory to prove they work before approving them. Ministers then release the data, like they have done for the dozen antigen tests and handful of antibody kits they have bought. 

One of the new test kits, made by London-based DNANudge, will be launched next month. It scours DNA in nose swabs but saves time as the results do not need to be sent to a laboratory and can be analysed in a NudgeBox (pictured)

One of the new test kits, made by London-based DNANudge, will be launched next month. It scours DNA in nose swabs but saves time as the results do not need to be sent to a laboratory and can be analysed in a NudgeBox (pictured) 

The smaller LamPORE machine, which could be suitable for care homes, can scan up to 2,000 swabs a day

The larger LamPORE machine, ideal for places like an airport, can process up to 15,000 tests a day

The other test, called the LamPORE, involves taking a sample of saliva, unlike existing methods which require invasive and difficult nose and throat swabs. The testing machine comes in two sizes 

The companies involved would not reveal the cost but claim it is similar or cheaper to current tests – which are around £18 privately but less to the NHS.

DNANudge today announced the government had placed a £161million order for just 5.8million tests, the equivalent of £27 per swab. 

Oxford Nanopore, which makes the other test — called LamPORE, has not revealed how much its deal was worth.   

Rapid tests, also called 'point-of-care' tests, are those which can be operated on site, such as in GP surgeries, care homes, prisons, and potentially at airports and ports.

The aim of every part of the testing system is to make it rapid so that people with the coronavirus can be isolated quickly to stop them spreading it further. 

A rapid diagnostic test would be particularly useful in the winter to quickly diagnose patients with either flu or Covid-19. 

HOW NUMBER 10'S APPROACH TO BUYING TESTS HAS STUNG THEM OUT OF £20M 

A 'buy first, test later' approach has stung officials out of £20million.

The Department of Health confirmed that it has had to cancel orders for £70million worth of tests after striking deals for them because they turned out to be bad.

That figure was out of a total £90million, suggesting the remaining £20million could not be recouped and the tests must now be used for non-diagnostic purposes or scrapped.

The Department said some of the tests are being used for research.

One company that sold tests to Britain but didn't pass the Government's evaluation was Wondfo, which is based in the city of Guangzhou in China.

The company told MailOnline the UK bought one million tests and 500,000 of them arrived on shipments at the start of April.

The tests, the company said, are 86.43 per cent sensitive and 99.57 per cent specific. They miss the MHRA standard on the sensitivity measure, but have been widely used in China.

The company told this website: 'To our knowledge, the UK Government has not yet determined how they will use our tests. It is our understanding that the work is still in process.'

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But there is currently no publicly available data on the accuracy of either of the new tests. 

DNANudge, on its website, says its tests are 98 per cent sensitive. Oxford Nanopore says LamPORE is 'in validation phase'. 

But the Department of Health said in a statement the latter has 'the same sensitivity as the widely used PCR swab test'. 

Professor Deeks told The Guardian: 'We would hope that the government would wait for proper evaluations, and consider the scientific evidence for all available tests before signing further contracts. 

'The mistakes made in test purchasing have wasted millions of pounds as well as put lives at risk.' 

He added: 'Both of these technologies are new, and it is unclear what evaluations have been done.' 

Professor Deeks did not expand on why lives have been put at risk. But he may generally be referring to the risks of a test that produces false results and wrongly tell people with Covid-19 they are free from the virus.

And for antibody tests, experts warn an inaccurate result could wrongly suggest a person has already had the virus and may not catch it again.  

Professor Deenan Pillay, a University College London virologist, told the newspaper: 'They [the new tests] may be very good, and if so that’s great (although the data must be made available for scrutiny, and to avoid any suspicion of conflicts of interests).' 

Professor Alan McNally, a microbiologist at Birmingham University, tweeted that it 'would be really good if validation data could be made public'.

Regulators today said the LamPORE tests could not be used until they get a valid CE mark, meaning it has been met European health and safety standards.

It comes after the Government wasted a staggering amount of money on finding antibody 'have you had it' tests.

Government officials said it had to cancel orders for £70million worth of coronavirus antibody kits from two companies in China — AllTest Biotech and Wondfo Biotech  that they had bought before checking they worked. 

That figure was out of a total £90million, suggesting the remaining £20million could not be recouped and the tests must now be used for non-diagnostic purposes or scrapped.

Today the government said the two new rapid tests for diagnosing Covid-19 will initially be introduced in the NHS and care homes before being made available more widely over the next few months. 

The Samba II device (pictured), is being used at Addenbrooke's, a teaching hospital in Cambridge. It can produce results in 90 minutes

The Samba II device (pictured), is being used at Addenbrooke's, a teaching hospital in Cambridge. It can produce results in 90 minutes

The Covid-19 LAMP assay test, developed by UK-based manufacturer Optigene, can turn around results within 20 minutes. It is being trialled in Hampshire

The Covid-19 LAMP assay test, developed by UK-based manufacturer Optigene, can turn around results within 20 minutes. It is being trialled in Hampshire

GOVERNMENT WILL START TESTING SEWAGE TO TRACK SPREAD OF COVID-19

The Government will start testing sewage to track coronavirus and could ban domestic travel to stop local outbreaks.

Infected people are thought to shed coronavirus material in faeces soon after symptoms appear, meaning sewage could act as a faster indicator of the presence of Covid-19 than swab tests.

This has led the government to ramp up mass sewage testing nationwide after trials across 44 sites in England were able to identify

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