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Scientists hail game-changing immunity test: Oxford scientists develop accurate antibody kits that work in 20 minutes and could be producing one million a week by June as Boris Johnson returns to work tomorrow

Scientists hail game-changing immunity test: Oxford scientists develop accurate antibody kits that work in 20 minutes and could be producing one million a week by June as Boris Johnson returns to work tomorrow
  • Scientist breakthrough means Britons could take test to see if they have immunity from coronavirus by June
  • The Government has ordered the production of 50million the new 'game-changing' COVID-19 devices  
  • The tests, expected to cost £10, have been devised by scientists at Oxford and require blood from pin prick
  • Britons could reliably test if they have developed immunity and then be allowed to return to work as normal
  •  Everyone entering the UK will be forced to quarantine for a fortnight under plans being drawn up by the Government
  •  Boris Johnson will go back to work in Downing Street tomorrow, having told aides that he is 'raring to go'
Ministers have ordered production of up to 50 million new immunity tests as part of what experts hope will be a 'game-changing' development in the battle against Covid-19.
A breakthrough by a team of top British scientists means that, by June, people could be able to reliably test whether they have developed immunity to the virus – and then be allowed to return to work and socialise as normal.
The dramatic news comes as Boris Johnson prepares to go back to work in Downing Street tomorrow, having told aides that he is 'raring to go' in the fight against the virus which nearly killed him.
The pandemic reached another grim milestone yesterday as the UK death toll passed 20,000 – up by 813 in 24 hours. 
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, last month said keeping deaths below 20,000 would be a 'good outcome'.
The new immunity tests, expected to cost £10, have been devised by scientists at Oxford, working for the Government-backed Rapid Testing Consortium.
Users of the test provide a pinprick of blood for analysis. Then, like a pregnancy test, if two lines appear after a 20-minute wait, people know that they have the antibodies. One line means they are either vulnerable to coronavirus infection or the test has failed.
Under plans being drawn up, the user would take a picture of the positive result and send it to a central unit which would enter their details into a database.
The consortium believes it could produce up to 1 million of the 'lateral flow' tests a week by the summer, adding up to 50 million by next year.
Users of the test provide a pinprick of blood for analysis. Then, like a pregnancy test, if two lines appear after a 20-minute wait, people know that they have the antibodies
The grim 20,000 milestone - which also saw the number of people testing positive for coronavirus rise by 4,913 to 148,377 - came as the coronavirus lockdown continued into its fifth weekend and the Government faced calls for greater transparency over the scientific advice given to ministers on the outbreak
The grim 20,000 milestone - which also saw the number of people testing positive for coronavirus rise by 4,913 to 148,377 - came as the coronavirus lockdown continued into its fifth weekend and the Government faced calls for greater transparency over the scientific advice given to ministers on the outbreak
The grim 20,000 milestone - which also saw the number of people testing positive for coronavirus rise by 4,913 to 148,377 - came as the coronavirus lockdown continued into its fifth weekend and the Government faced calls for greater transparency over the scientific advice given to ministers on the outbreak
Ministers have ordered production of up to 50 million new immunity tests as part of what experts hope will be a ¿game-changing¿ development in the battle against Covid-19. A prototype is pictured above
Ministers have ordered production of up to 50 million new immunity tests as part of what experts hope will be a 'game-changing' development in the battle against Covid-19. A prototype is pictured above
Last night, Health Minister Lord Bethell said: 'This is a great story of how our manufacturers are stepping up to the challenge of Covid, and I am hopeful that their product will make an impact in our battle against this terrible disease.'
There is, however, likely to be scepticism about the plan due to Ministers' struggle to reach the current target of 100,000 tests a day for those feared to be carrying the virus. 

Boris Johnson says he is 'raring to go' and will start work on Monday to 'tighten his grip on coronavirus crisis' 

Boris Johnson will return from his Chequers convalescence tomorrow determined to 'tighten his grip' on a Government which has often appeared to flounder in his absence.
The Prime Minister told aides during a three-hour Covid-19 strategy session that doctors had given him permission to return.
'I'm raring to go,' he insisted.
Mr Johnson, who was discharged from St Thomas' Hospital in Central London two weeks ago, has spent the past week easing back into something closer to a normal workload, making calls to Ministers, working on official papers and holding a series of – sometimes erratic – meetings on ZoomOn Friday, a Government website ran out of home virus tests for key workers in just 15 minutes.
The Government plan also defies World Health Organisation advice that countries should not issue so-called 'immunity passports' to ease lockdowns because there was no evidence that people who developed antibodies after recovering from the virus were protected against a second infection.
In other developments:
  • Ministers were planning to put all travellers from abroad, including returning UK citizens, in quarantine for a fortnight;
  • Tory 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady warned Mr Johnson that prolonging the lockdown 'for longer than necessary would have its own toll of mass unemployment, business failure and catastrophic deterioration of the public finances', while Tory donor and City grandee Michael Spencer called for the Government to provide a blueprint for easing the measures, with a friend saying 'it should not continue a day longer than necessary';
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out options for exiting the lockdown during a three-hour summit at Mr Johnson's Chequers country retreat and championed the Czech Republic's five -stage plan to lift all domestic restrictions by June 8;
  • A Cabinet Minister told this newspaper that it was untrue that Mr Johnson's illness had made him reluctant to lift the social distancing measures;
  • Former Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers called on the Government to open garden centres immediately – a view backed by a new opinion poll
  • Tory MPs warned teachers' unions not to block pupils' early return to the classroom;
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel warned that 'we are not out of the woods yet' and urged the public to continue to follow social distancing rules – while vowing to tackle 'the most sophisticated' criminals who are seeking to 'exploit and capitalise' on the pandemic;
  • An investigation by this newspaper established that wealthy tycoons living in the tax haven of Monaco are using British taxpayers' cash to pay the wages of the staff in their UK companies;
  • Police said there had been 53 attacks on 5G masts amid conspiracy theories falsely linking them to the virus – including a mast serving Birmingham's new Nightingale Hospital;
  • There was renewed controversy over the low number of patients being treated in Nightingale Hospitals;lThe global death toll exceeded 200,000.  

ANYONE flying into the UK will have to quarantine for two weeks

Everyone entering the UK will be forced to quarantine for a fortnight under plans being drawn up by the Government. The move follows growing pressure for tighter border controls during the coronavirus crisis and would include UK citizens returning from abroad. 
Airport bosses have complained that the failure to limit arrivals and check passengers has made a mockery of the lockdown. 
The Mail on Sunday understands that the plan – similar to one operated by Singapore – was agreed during a meeting of Ministers and officials on WednesdayA Government source last night said: 'The PM has been doing all the right things and following his doctor's advice to come back to work – and he is raring to go. He has told the team he will be back at his desk on Monday morning. It's given everyone a huge lift.
'Boris is tightening his grip. You are going to see much greater clarity, energy and purpose now.'
The Government is expected to buy up the new tests for use in order of priority, starting with key workers. The consortium's leader Jonathan Allis said: 'We are close to picking up 100 per cent of all cases where people have antibodies. Now it is just a question of scaling up the manufacturing process.'
A Government source said: 'This could be the game changer – a breakthrough moment to help us turn the tide on the virus.'The number of people to have tested positive for coronavirus increased by 4,913 to 148,377, it was revealed on Saturday afternoon
England continues to lead the UK for the percentage of critical care beds that are being used for coronavirus patients
Apply mobility trends data for the UK. The number of requests for directions involving walking, driving or public transport shows signs of increasing after decreasing over the past month and a half
One of the graphs issued at the press conference yesterday showed the number of people in hospital with the coronavirus across the country. It has fallen over the last 24 hours

Boris Johnson says he is 'raring to go' and will start work on Monday to 'tighten his grip on coronavirus crisis and offer more clarity on response'

By Glen Owen, Harry Cole and Brendan Carlin for the Mail on Sunday
Boris Johnson will return from his Chequers convalescence tomorrow determined to 'tighten his grip' on a Government which has often appeared to flounder in his absence.
The Prime Minister told aides during a three-hour Covid-19 strategy session that doctors had given him permission to return.
'I'm raring to go,' he insisted.
Mr Johnson, who was discharged from St Thomas' Hospital in Central London two weeks ago, has spent the past week easing back into something closer to a normal workload, making calls to Ministers, working on official papers and holding a series of – sometimes erratic – meetings on Zoom.
A source said: 'Boris is tightening his grip. You are going to see much greater clarity, energy and purpose now.'
It comes after splits opened up in the Government over how to map a path out of the lockdown, and criticism of Ministers for failing to introduce widespread testing and source adequate supplies of protective equipment for health workers.
During the three-hour Chequers summit, which included Cabinet Ministers such as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill and aides including chief adviser Dominic Cummings and No 10 Director of Communications Lee Cain, Mr Johnson was given a detailed briefing on the policy work being carried out on Covid-19.
Mr Sunak presented an economic blueprint based on the 'best practice' that has been shown to work in countries such as Switzerland, Denmark and Germany.
It is understood the Chancellor briefed Mr Johnson on a four-point plan to reopen non-essential shops, change working patterns and then open schools – as well as making 'hygienic measures' a permanent fixture in Britain's workplaces.
Mr Sunak highlighted plans in Austria where shops over 400 sq m (4,300 sq ft) and hardware stores and garden centres have already reopened, while in Germany hairdressers are open as long as staff and clients wear protective clothing. 
And he championed the Czech Republic's five-stage plan to lift all domestic restrictions by June 8, with particular focus on the country's plans to start by opening farmers' markets and car dealerships.
Mr Johnson, who was discharged from St Thomas¿ Hospital in Central London two weeks ago, has spent the past week easing back into something closer to a normal workload, making calls to Ministers, working on official papers and holding a series of ¿ sometimes erratic ¿ meetings on Zoom
Reports last week said Mr Johnson's serious illness had turned him from a 'hawk' who supported an early exit from the lockdown into a 'dove' who regarded the protection of the NHS as the overwhelming priority. 
But that interpretation is disputed by one Minister, a close ally of the Prime Minister, who said: 'I don't think that is right. He is going to start showing some leg on leaving lockdown.'
The Minister added: 'The PM is moving in tandem with public opinion. I think public opinion is getting ready for things to change.
'Businesses that weren't meant to have locked down are saying they are going to start up again.
'People are doing it already. You can't keep the lockdown going for ever because people are bored and people want to get out.'
In reference to the elderly, the Minister said: 'Surely there comes a point at which you say: 'There may be a risk, but thank you very much – I will take that risk myself. I want to see my grandchildren. I don't want to live for four years as a hermit'. Meanwhile, young people are beginning to feel, 'I'm 20, I'm fit, my chances of getting anything are negligible. Why am I locked down?' '
Sources said that in the coming days, Mr Johnson would 'immerse himself in briefings with his team and set out his priorities for the week ahead'. The Prime Minister is also expected to grill Secretaries of State on their departments' progress in tackling the virus.
A No 10 insider said: 'The Prime Minister has been doing all the right things and following his doctor's advice to come back to work, and he is raring to go. He has told the team he will be back at his desk on Monday morning – it's given everyone a huge lift.'
Cabinet Ministers warn that for all the planning available, eventually Mr Johnson will have to make a 'horrible political decision' about what he believes to be an acceptable level of community infection rates going forward.
One said: 'It's very clear that what this comes down to will be what is his tolerated transmission rate? Is it 1,000 new cases a day – 4,000? That is a decision that needs to be taken by the whole Cabinet, not just four stand-ins,' referring to the so-called 'quad' of Ministers who have been minding the shop for Mr Johnson – Mr Raab, Mr Sunak, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove.
The Minister added: 'The decision comes down to will we have a high tolerance for infection, where things really get back to normal, or a low tolerance where the social distancing carries on for months and we always stand two metres apart.
'There is a middle path, but that is a decision for politicians now, not scientists. They have set out the consequences, now it is time to decide. It is an inherently political decision.'
Other Ministers are urging the PM to 'bind Labour' into any decision on lifting the lockdown to avoid the opposition 'weaponising' any future increase in cases.
One said: 'Keir Starmer is offering to be a grown-up here and work with us, and we should call him out on that.'

ANYONE flying into the UK will have to quarantine for two weeks: Returning Britons and foreigners will have to self isolate in 'phase two' of coronavirus plan

  • Airport bosses have complained over failure to limit arrivals and check flyers
  • Officials were told to look at ways to enforce compliance, including large fines or even criminal prosecution, under powers introduced by the Coronavirus Act 
  • The new measures would be backed by a global communications campaign to warn travellers what to expect if they come to the UK
Everyone entering the UK will be forced to quarantine for a fortnight under plans being drawn up by the Government. The move follows growing pressure for tighter border controls during the coronavirus crisis and would include UK citizens returning from abroad. 
Airport bosses have complained that the failure to limit arrivals and check passengers has made a mockery of the lockdown. 
The Mail on Sunday understands that the plan – similar to one operated by Singapore – was agreed during a meeting of Ministers and officials on Wednesday. 
Officials were told to look at ways to enforce compliance, including large fines or even criminal prosecution, under powers introduced by the Coronavirus Act. 
It was agreed the authorities could visit registered addresses of arrivals to ensure they were not breaking their quarantine. 
An unusually empty Heathrow airport. Under new rules everyone coming back into the UK may have to be isolated for as long as fourteen days
An unusually empty Heathrow airport. Under new rules everyone coming back into the UK may have to be isolated for as long as fourteen days
The emergency legislation gives immigration officials the power to remove a potentially infectious person to a suitable place for screening and assessment, and for public health officers to enforce restrictions on movement. 
The new measures would be backed by a global communications campaign to warn travellers what to expect if they come to the UK. 
A Government source said: 'A stringent, Singapore-style approach at our ports will help the UK manage the risk from travellers entering the country and reduce the possibility of a second peak. 
'We are looking at deploying these measures at the right time, in line with the scientific advice and when community transmission has been significantly reduced.'
A 14-day quarantine of arrivals has already been implemented in dozens of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Greece. Japan and Hong Kong introduced Covid-19 tests for all arrivals in mid-January – with those testing positive immediately taken to hospital, and those who test negative placed in isolation. 
More than 130 countries have introduced some form of travel restriction, quarantine and bans on travel from high-risk areas. 
At least 90 per cent of the world's population lives in countries with restrictions on non-citizens and non-residents arriving from abroad, with Britain criticised for allowing anyone to arrive free of checks.
While many countries have put in place health tests for airport arrivals the UK has no such system. Although flight numbers are down there are still people entering the UK everyday
While many countries have put in place health tests for airport arrivals the UK has no such system. Although flight numbers are down there are still people entering the UK everyday
More than 15,000 people arrive in the UK each day, with hundreds of thousands of UK nationals being repatriated since the outbreak began, including 200,000 from Spain, one of the worst-hit countries. 
Since January, officials in China and other countries in the Far East and Middle East have been using infra-red cameras to screen travellers with high temperatures. Those who appear red on the screen are singled out for a consultation by health professionals and in some cases tested for the disease. 
However, the World Health Organisation says entry screening is 'not effective' because it can take two weeks for a virus carrier to display symptoms. 
Only a few cases have been detected at airports in China, Thailand and Malaysia. Lorry drivers bringing in vital supplies to the UK could be exempt from the clampdown. 

China tried to patent potential coronavirus drug Remsvidir the DAY AFTER Beijing confirmed virus was transmissable between humans

 By Glen Owen for The Mail on Sunday 
China filed a patent for a drug seen as one of the best potential weapons against coronavirus the day after it confirmed human transmission of the disease.
The revelation that it moved so fast fuels concerns about a cover-up of the pandemic when it erupted in Wuhan last year, and suggests that China’s understanding of the virus was far advanced from the impression given by its public stance.
Last night, Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, joined the growing global clamour for a full, independent inquiry into China’s role.
‘It is quite clear there is an awful lot that we don’t know about the emergence of this disease and the responses to it,’ he said. ‘We all need to learn the lessons of the outbreak so the international community can respond better in the future.’
China’s Communist Party leaders face accusations that they suppressed data, blocked public health teams from investigating, silenced doctors seeking to warn the world about the epidemic and delayed admitting there was human transmission.
The contagious nature of the virus was confirmed by President Xi Jinping on January 20. Leaked documents have shown that even after officials knew they faced an epidemic, they delayed warning the public for six days.
On January 21, a patent for commercial use of Remdesivir – a drug initially created by an American pharmaceutical firm to fight ebola – was filed in China.
The application was made by Wuhan Institute of Virology, the top-secret bio-laboratory at the centre of concerns about a possible leak of the disease from its research on bats, and the country’s Military Medicine Institute.
The move was described as ‘provocative’ by one website specialising in clinical research.
Gilead, the California-based developer of the drug, says it filed its own global applications for Remdesivir’s use against coronavirus four years ago. Countries, firms and scientists around the world are collaborating in the race to find effective treatments and vaccines.
The winners will derive immense prestige – and would boost China’s narrative that its response deserves praise, not opprobrium.
Gilead said it was aware of the Chinese move but had no influence over the patent office’s decision and could not comment since precise details of the application would not be published until next year. ‘Our focus at this time is on rapidly determining the potential for Remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19 and accelerating manufacturing in anticipation of potential future supply needs,’ a spokesman added.
The drug, hailed as ‘promising’ by US President Donald Trump after anecdotal reports that it had helped some patients, is already being given to certain coronavirus cases on compassionate grounds.
Stocks are in such short supply that it could not be included in the world’s biggest trial of possible treatments being run by Oxford University. One leading US epidemiologist said it offered ‘hope’ but ‘won’t likely be a home-run drug’. This was underlined last week by leaked results of an initial trial in China that raised concerns.
But Gilead argued this study was stopped due to low patient enrolment and said results of a major US government trial would be released next month. This study is designed to show if Remdesivir, when given to patients with a range of disease severity, improves outcomes such as length of hospital stay, need for mechanical ventilation and survival rates.
Professor Martin Landray, a leader of the Oxford study, said doctors would probably end up with a range of drugs to fight the virus, adding: ‘It is unlikely we will get a wonder drug that will knock out the infection.’
Prof Landray said drugs might be used in combinations to help reduce death rates.
He added: ‘Even if you find a drug that reduces the death rate by one fifth, that would have meant we would have been able to save about 4,000 lives already in Britain.'

UK coronavirus cases are STILL too high to ease lockdown and the UK's track-and-trace infrastructure would collapse with a new spike in cases, member of secretive SAGE committee warns

Leading scientists have poured cold water on hopes the lockdown could be relaxed, warning the rate of new infections is still too high.  
Tacking to a containment strategy based on rigorous testing and contact tracing is widely touted as the route to easing restrictions.
But the UK's track-and-trace infrastructure would cripple under the load of daily cases at their current levels, experts have said.
They have lined up behind Professor John Edmunds, who sits on the government's scientific advisory group, Sage, to not jump the gun on lifting the social distancing.
The warnings came as Britain passed the grim 20,000-death milestone in the coronavirus outbreak.
A further 813 recorded fatalities took the total toll to 20,319, while cases also rose by 4,913 to 148,377. 
Professor Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said this influx of daily cases would stretch contact tracing capacity to breaking point. 
A further 813 recorded fatalities took the total toll to 20,319, while cases also rose by 4,913 to 148,377
Experts have lined up behind Professor John Edmunds, who sits on the government's scientific advisory group, Sage, to not jump the gun on lifting the social distancing
The number of people to have tested positive for the deadly bug surged by 4,913 to 148,377, it was revealed on Saturday afternoon
The number of people to have tested positive for the deadly bug surged by 4,913 to 148,377, it was revealed on Saturday afternoon
'If we lifted the lockdown now, the testing and tracing system would be overwhelmed,' he told the Observer
'We will have to get case numbers down a lot lower than they are now before we can think of lifting current regulations.'   
Professor Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the true number of cases could be double the official figure.
He said: 'The World Health Organisation said yesterday that about half of all deaths in Europe are occurring in residence of elderly care homes.
'We know for a fact the figures reported every day are an underestimate, possibly a significant underestimate of the total number of deaths.'
He added the UK is well on track to hit 30,000 deaths in hospital, perhaps even 40,000 before the pandemic is brought under control.
This weekend, Britons were seen basking in the unseasonably warm weather, while the level of traffic on the roads also began to steadily creep upwards (Bournemouth pictured)
The Home Secretary (pictured yesterday) urged the public to 'stay strong' and observe social distancing
The Home Secretary (pictured yesterday) urged the public to 'stay strong' and observe social distancing
In a bleak prediction, Prof Hunter said 'We are undoubtedly going to have one of the highest death rates in Europe.' 
Ministers have doubled down their calls for people to stay indoors amid signs swathes of the public are growing restless with life under lockdown.  
This weekend, Britons were seen basking in the unseasonably warm weather, while the level of traffic on the roads also began to steadily creep upwards.  
Pressure is growing on the government to publish a blueprint out of lockdown, in step with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon who promised to treat her electorate 'like grown ups' when she sketched out a plan to phase out curbs.
Countries across the world are also starting to reveal their plans to relax tough distancing measures.
But ministers in Westminster continue to deflect calls for an exit strategy and stick to hammering their core message to obey the guidance.
At yesterday's Downing Street press briefing, Home Secretary Priti Patel urged the public to 'stay strong' and observe social distancing.   
A police officer tells members of the public that they are not allowed to sit and enjoy the sunshine on the grass, but are allowed to walk to take exercise, in London Fields park in east London
Professor Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England who flanked the Home Secretary, insisted the social distancing measures were having an effect
Professor Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England who flanked the Home Secretary, insisted the social distancing measures were having an effect
Professor Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England who flanked the Home Secretary, insisted the social distancing measures were having an effect.
However, he emphasised the difficulties in dealing with a new virus which had created a 'once-in-a-century global health crisis'.
He said: 'This was going to be a huge challenge not just for the UK, but for every country.
'Even in countries that have got on top of this early on, we are unfortunately beginning to see new infections.
'So I think the first thing to emphasise is that this unfortunately is not going to be something we will begin to get over in the next few weeks.
'This is something we are going to have to continue working our way through over the months ahead - as I have said before this is not a sprint, this will be a marathon.'   

Britain's first coronavirus 'super-spreader' helped scientists develop game-changing £10 immunity test they hope to produce 1m of a week 

By Glen Owen, Political Editor for the Mail on Sunday
The breakthrough in the race to develop what Boris Johnson calls 'the people's test' came through a combination of forensic detective work and cutting-edge diagnostic research at Oxford University.
To design an immunity test with the necessary degree of accuracy – as close as possible to 100 per cent – scientists on the project needed to analyse the blood of those who had been infected with Covid-19, but displayed few, if any, symptoms.
This is where superspreaders such as British businessman Steve Walsh have played a critical role.
Mr Walsh, one of the UK's first superspreaders, contracted the virus at a business conference in Singapore, before going to the French Alps for a skiing holiday and then returning to his home in Hove, East Sussex – where he was diagnosed on February 6.
By tracing the network of people who came into contact with the 53-year-old – and everyone those people came into contact with – scientists were able to test the antibody levels in those who had only been mildly infected.
Coronavirus 'super-spreader' Steve Walsh is pictured above. Mr Walsh, one of the UK¿s first superspreaders, contracted the virus at a business conference in Singapore, before going to the French Alps for a skiing holiday and then returning to his home in Hove, East Sussex ¿ where he was diagnosed on February 6
Coronavirus 'super-spreader' Steve Walsh is pictured above. Mr Walsh, one of the UK's first superspreaders, contracted the virus at a business conference in Singapore, before going to the French Alps for a skiing holiday and then returning to his home in Hove, East Sussex – where he was diagnosed on February 6
Crucially, the experts, who include Sir John Bell, Oxford's Regius Professor of Medicine and a world-renowned immunologist, were also able to analyse the blood of sufferers in the early phase of the disease, thus facilitating the ultra-sophisticated 'baselining' of 'neutralising antibody' levels.
It means Professor Bell and his team are confident that the £10 tests can produce a positive result on immunity – indicated by a double line on the reader – within 20 minutes of taking a pinprick of blood, and to an accuracy level of more than 99 per cent.
The flawed immunity tests which Ministers had imported from China and other countries at the cost of several million pounds were based on the analysis of the blood of patients who had been admitted to hospital with the virus.
This meant the diagnostic techniques were less sensitive, with the tests only able to pick up between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of people who had an immune response to Covid-19.
Six weeks ago, with the realisation dawning on Downing Street that the imported immunity tests were not fit for purpose, Mr Johnson held a 'testing summit' to discuss plans for testing both the immunity of the population and the roll-out of the tests for people who are carrying the virus – now the subject of Health Secretary Matt Hancock's contentious 100,000- a-day target. 
Professor Sir John Bell is pictured above
Crucially, the experts, who include Sir John Bell, Oxford's Regius Professor of Medicine and a world-renowned immunologist, were also able to analyse the blood of sufferers in the early phase of the disease, thus facilitating the ultra-sophisticated 'baselining' of 'neutralising antibody' levels. Professor Sir John Bell is pictured left, while Jonathan Allis of Blue Earth Diagnostics is pictured right
A source close to the project said: 'Boris was very enthusiastic, particularly about the immunity ones, which he called 'the people's test'.
'It raised the cheering prospect of workers being able to brandish an immunity 'certificate' or even a wristband and go straight back into normal life.'
As Prof Bell and his team refined the test, entrepreneur Jonathan Allis, the founding CEO of Blue Earth Diagnostic, was tasked by Mr Hancock and Health Minister Lord Bethell – aided by PR guru Roland Rudd – with establishing its mass production through the Rapid Testing Consortium.
The consortium aims to harness the mass-production techniques of the diagnostic companies Abingdon Health in England, BBI Solutions in Wales, Omega Diagnostics in Scotland and CIGA Healthcare in Northern Ireland, which have the combined capacity to produce up to 50 million immunity tests every year. But with Mr Hancock struggling to hit his own target for testing people who fear they have the virus, the consortium is likely to face scepticism about its ability to produce the hoped-for million tests a week by the summer.
Yesterday, most tests had been booked up through the Government website within an hour of it reopening, and home-testing kits became unavailable less than 15 minutes after bookings began again. However, the project source insisted the companies in the consortium have the capacity to 'scale up' production 'in every corner of the UK' by adapting the so-called 'lateral flow' blood tests which are already in use for conditions such as HIV.
The source said: 'Jonathan and the team have been working up to 20-hour days, seven days a week – literally around the clock. There is a huge determination to achieve this as quickly as is humanly possible.'
The Treasury is bankrolling the project, and the scientists expect the Government to buy up the kits before deciding how to allocate them after key workers have received them first.
Under plans which are still in their infancy, users would take a picture of the positive result and send it to a central Covid 'hub' which would enter the findings on a national database, accessible on a mobile phone app.
The experts also hope that mass, country-wide testing will also shed more light on the mysteries of Covid-19 immunity: how long it lasts, and, most worryingly, whether people can catch the virus more than once.

The mysteries of immunity

The World Health Organisation has warned that 'immunity passports' may increase virus transmission because there is 'no evidence' that those who develop antibodies after recovering from Covid-19 are protected from further infection.
Certainly the jury is out on whether antibody tests provide reliable evidence that someone has had coronavirus and how long they are immune from the disease, if at all. It means Ministers are taking a big gamble, but one with the potentially huge economic prize of getting millions back to work.
The tests establish the presence of proteins in the blood called antibodies. These will only exist if the immune system has been exposed to the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 and should block virus particles from entering cells and causing infection.
They are different from antigen or 'swab tests' which look for the virus itself. Numerous companies have produced finger-prick antibody tests which can be done at home, but none has so far proved accurate enough to meet Public Health England's standards.
In particular, the tests have given too many 'false positive' results, potentially allowing people wrongly to think that they are immune.
The hope is the test developed by the Oxford University scientists have overcome this hurdle.

Teachers' unions warned not to 'get in the way' of children going back to school when coronavirus lockdown eases

By Brendan Carlin and James Heale for the Mail on Sunday
Teachers' unions are being warned not to get in the way of getting children back to school and letting their parents get back to work.
Tory MPs issued the alert amid concerns that union bosses were 'leaning on' Education Ministers to put off a timetable for schools to reopen.
The row came as Home Secretary Priti Patel said she sympathised 'as a parent myself' with the 'immensely difficult' plight of parents juggling with childcare and the need to get back to work.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street virus briefing, she gave a 'clear assurance to the British public that the Government is working night and day looking at how we can move us out of this situation'. 
Teachers' unions are being warned not to get in the way of getting children back to school and letting their parents get back to work. Tory MPs issued the alert amid concerns that union bosses were 'leaning on' Education Ministers to put off a timetable for schools to reopen [File photo]
Teachers' unions are being warned not to get in the way of getting children back to school and letting their parents get back to work. Tory MPs issued the alert amid concerns that union bosses were 'leaning on' Education Ministers to put off a timetable for schools to reopen [File photo]
But Ms Patel added it would 'irresponsible' to give any timetable now for the reopening of schools not already caring for key workers' children – stressing the nation 'was not out of the woods' yet in the fight against the virus.
However, her comments came amid private concerns from some Conservative MPs that teaching unions are putting up 'obstacles' to getting children back to school as soon as possible.
Last week, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) issued five conditions for the return of schools – including a demand that teachers have access to personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks, gloves and aprons 'where appropriate'.
Education Department guidelines say that staff should instead focus on observing 'social distancing, handwashing, hygiene measures and cleansing of surfaces'.
NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach also urged Ministers: 'Do not rush to reopen schools.' Conservative MP David Morris last night said that the unions were 'quite rightly concerned about teachers' welfare and making representations to Ministers, but that must not get in the way of arriving at a timetable for reopening the nation's schools'.
Mr Morris added: 'Getting our children back into class is not just vital for their education, it's vital so that parents can get back to work and help restart the economy.'
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has insisted that 'no decision has been made on when we will reopen schools'. He added: 'I can reassure schools and parents that they will only reopen when the scientific advice indicates it is the right time to do so.'
Last night the Education Department said that the latest scientific advice concluded that 'staff in non-residential education settings do not require PPE, as this is only needed by professionals providing intimate care to people with a possible or confirmed case of Covid-19.'
The NASUWT was approached for comment.

High Street stores will have to close changing rooms, toilets and limit customers when they re-open after coronavirus lockdown, report reveals

Shoppers will have to follow strict guidelines when high street stores reopen – including being asked to shop alone or to buy new clothes without trying them on.
In a raft of recommendations drawn up ahead of a highly anticipated lifting of the lockdown, retail bosses have been advised to consider closing or restricting access to toilets and changing rooms, restrict the number of shoppers and limit or remove customer seating.
The report, published today by retail trade body the British Retail Consortium, also advises shops to keep cafes and restaurants closed until further notice, erect barriers such as plastic screens at tills and consider using one-way systems around stores to maintain social distancing.
Above, an employee from Trade Point disinfects shopping trolleys outside its north London branch. Recommendations may see cleaning stations installed to provide hand sanitiser and other hygiene equipment; and self-checkout tills, door handles, lift buttons and handrails will be cleaned regularly
Above, an employee from Trade Point disinfects shopping trolleys outside its north London branch. Recommendations may see cleaning stations installed to provide hand sanitiser and other hygiene equipment; and self-checkout tills, door handles, lift buttons and handrails will be cleaned regularly
In other measures being considered, separate entrances and exits could be used; doors could be kept open where possible; paying by cash will be discouraged; cleaning stations could be installed to provide hand sanitiser and other hygiene equipment; and self-checkout tills, door handles, lift buttons and handrails will be cleaned regularly.
The seven-page document, endorsed by shop workers trade union Usdaw, has been released amid growing speculation over the timing of the Government signalling a reopening of shops.
The latest coronavirus casualty figures made grim reading as deaths passed 20,000. But there are hopes that in the coming weeks the Government could signal a gradual reawakening of the economy.
The Mail on Sunday reveals today that department store giant John Lewis is drawing up a blueprint for a phased reopening programme which bosses say could be ready to activate by the middle of next month.
John Lewis Partnership director of operations Andrew Murphy, who also oversees Waitrose, said it would take up to six weeks to implement and would only be initiated in strict cooperation with Government and health officials.
Other shops including B&Q and Homebase have begun opening stores. Homebase opened 20 yesterday and said it will hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss rolling out the plan to more of its 158 shops.
Under the new guidelines, shops have been asked to consider closing changing rooms or maintain a staff presence to monitor social distancing, and to consider whether it is safe to keep customer toilets open or whether they should be open on request

Under the new guidelines, shops have been asked to consider closing changing rooms or maintain a staff presence to monitor social distancing, and to consider whether it is safe to keep customer toilets open or whether they should be open on request
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: ‘Retailers are closely following developments from the Government on when restrictions might be eased and are starting to plan accordingly.
‘Since the lockdown, many retailers have proved how shops can be run safely and effectively in line with the Government’s social distancing advice. This guidance is the product of retail’s incredible efforts to adapt to exceptional circumstances.’
Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: ‘Non-food retail should only start trading again when expert public health advice agrees. However, we need to be ready and we need to make sure that the proper preparations and measures are put in place.’
Under the new guidelines, shops have been asked to consider closing changing rooms or maintain a staff presence to monitor social distancing, and to consider whether it is safe to keep customer toilets open or whether they should be open on request.
The BRC suggests firms calculate the area of each store and limit the number of customers accordingly, based on the 2m (6ft 6ins) social distancing rules.
They have also been told to remove promotional fixtures to allow shoppers to move more freely, position staff to advise customers of the etiquette, limit the number of people using lifts and to use barriers to restrict the length of queues.
Store managers have also been told to ‘consider what steps will be taken by managers and staff where customers are not following social distancing measures’.
One store boss said there was little choice but to implement the draconian measures, but added: ‘How can you go clothes shopping without trying on clothes?’

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