Boots is launching a coronavirus testing service with results in just 12 minutes.
The high-speed test has proved 97 per cent accurate in trials and should be available within a fortnight. But the chain is also offering a 48-hour service from today and hopes 200 branches will offer tests by Christmas.
Chief executive Sebastian James said it was the first step toward mass testing on high streets and a way to allow Britons to get on with their lives again. Boots will initially charge £120 but this is likely to fall if demand grows.
The tests are aimed at those who have no symptoms but are seeking peace of mind. Anyone who suspects they have Covid-19 is advised to go to an NHS testing station.
In other developments:
- Another 151 virus deaths were reported yesterday, twice the figure a week earlier, along with 19,790 cases;
- Hospitals are rapidly filling up, with 1,142 patients admitted yesterday – the highest daily total since May 7;
- Middle-class workers in commuter towns, seaside resorts and manufacturing hubs are among the worst hit, experts said;
- Fewer than one in six doctors have starting catching up on the backlog of NHS treatment caused by lockdown, a BMA survey shows;
- The scientist leading the development of the Oxford University vaccine said it was likely to reach key health workers and high-risk patients by Christmas;
- Quarantine periods for people who have contact with Covid-19 sufferers could be reduced to between seven and ten days amid reports of widespread non-compliance;
- Hospices are still being denied regular coronavirus testing, meaning the dying are not able to see loved ones;
- Wales may need a second ‘firebreak’ lockdown in the new year after numbers in critical care surged by 57 per cent in a week.
Boots has bought 100 portable devices from US diagnostics firm Lumira that can give a verdict on a swab almost immediately.
They will be distributed to stores over the next few weeks.
Initial customers are expected to be travellers and companies seeking to bring staff back on to their premises.
The tests could allow people to travel, to mix with friends and family and to return to offices that have been all but deserted.
Mr James said: ‘We don’t want to make a profit out of it. We are just covering our costs as there is a big upfront outlay for all the kit.
‘My thinking is that if the volume is large we will be able to bring the price down. I’m hoping lots of people will want to do it and if they do, then we can make the price more accessible.
‘We believe we are the cheapest private test. We think it is pretty good value compared to others on the high street, which range from £270 at the very expensive end to about £150 in online clinics.