The UK government is to begin trialling a new, swabless COVID-19 test which would be completed at home on a weekly basis. The initial phase of the trial will have 14,000 participants and be conducted by the University of Southampton, local government and the NHS.

Tests will be completed by spitting into a collection tube. The test kits will be delivered and collected weekly and results can be available within 48 hours. Running for up to four weeks, the trial will also involve ongoing routine testing of asymptomatic healthcare workers. Positive cases will be shared with the NHS contact tracing program.

According to Southampton City Council director of public health Debbie Chase, the first phase participants will include the 800-strong workforce of Southampton’s GP practice and others in their households.

This will be “followed by some other essential key workers and some University of Southampton staff and students as we evaluate the logistics needed for regular testing of large population groups,” Chase said.

The saliva test has been developed by UK-based company OptiGene and utilises a LAMP assay to detect COVID-19 genome sequences. The trial will also look into other swabless tests from Chronomics, Avacta, MAP Science and Oxford Nanoimaging.

University of Southampton professor Keith Godfrey, Ph.D., said: “The health, social and economic impacts of lockdown cannot be underestimated. Through this initiative, we believe we can contribute to safely restoring economic activity within the city and region during national relaxation measures, whilst enabling people to regain their lives, work and education.”

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