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UK announces 684 more coronavirus victims today: Total death toll reaches 3,605 and more than 38,000 people have now tested positive for the infection as Matt Hancock warns there could be 1,000 deaths per DAY by Easter

UK announces 684 more coronavirus victims today: Total death toll reaches 3,605 and more than 38,000 people have now tested positive for the infection as Matt Hancock warns there could be 1,000 deaths per DAY by Easter
  • The total number of people who have tested positive in the UK is now 38,168, up 4,450 from yesterday
  • Every day since Tuesday has seen a record daily high number of deaths - the Monday to Friday total is 2,377
  • But the number of new infections is increasing at a slower rate than it was in mid to late March
  • The day-to-day jumps of around 25% seen in the middle of March are now down to 15% each day
The UK has announced 684 more coronavirus deaths today, taking the total number of fatalities to 3,605. 
Yet again the number is a record one-day high - this has been the case almost every day this week, with each day since Tuesday announcing more victims than the last.
Yesterday there were a record 569 new fatalities announced by the Department of Health and today's statistics show a rise 20 per cent larger.
The numbers behind the UK's crisis have escalated rapidly over the past seven days and Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said the virus 'continues its grim march'. He admitted that next week is likely to be worse still, potentially topping out at more than 1,000 deaths per day by Easter Sunday. 
Britain is still being hammered by the consequences of huge numbers of people catching the coronavirus before the country went into total lockdown last week. The increases being seen each day are 'expected', scientists say.
Experts say it could take another couple of weeks before the benefits of social distancing start to show in NHS statistics - but they insist that the outbreak will taper off and the daily numbers will start to fall.
Matt Hancock and the chief nursing officer, Ruth May, said in today's briefing that people must resist the urge to break isolation and go out this weekend, when sunny weather is expected. Mr Hancock said: 'We cannot relax our discipline now. If we do, people will die. This advice is not a request - it is an instruction.'   
And officials maintain that the NHS is coping well with the strain so far and there are now more than 2,000 spare intensive care beds available across the country, as well as ventilators available for patients who need them.  
But the Government is facing a huge backlash over its coronavirus testing policy. Mr Hancock last night pledged to ramp up to carrying out 100,000 tests per day by the end of April after being criticised for the UK currently only managing around 10,000 daily.
He was then forced to admit, however, that this did not include antibody tests, which reveal if someone has already recovered from the illness and are considered vital for ending the UK's lockdown. He also said that the Government still hasn't found one it thinks it good enough to use.
And scientists at private research companies and university labs around the country have said they offered to help the Government with analysing swab test results weeks ago but never heard back because Public Health England insisted on doing all the work internally. 
Officials have now opened this up and penned a letter pleading for businesses to get in touch if they are able to make antigen or antibody testing kits or protective equipment. One company told MailOnline it still has not heard from the Government despite offering to produce tests a month ago.
In other developments in the worldwide coronavirus crisis:
  • Two NHS nurses - Areema Nasreen, 36, and Aimee O'Rourke, 39, have died after catching the coronavirus, taking the death toll of frontline health workers to seven;
  • The Government is enrolling COVID-19 patients in three major clinical trials in NHS hospitals to test what types of treatments can be used. One of them already has 926 people involved;
  • Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway's husband, Derek Draper, 52, is in intensive care with a severe case of COVID-19;
  • The Queen will address the nation in a televised speech about the coronavirus on Sunday;
  • Teachers will submit 'carefully considered' GCSE and A-Level grades for their students after coronavirus cancelled exams - but regulators will crack down on over-generous marking;
  • Premier League clubs will ask their players to take wage cuts of up to 30 per cent and will donate £20million to the NHS after Matt Hancock hinted they should not be drawing full pay; 
  • Beijing's chief medical adviser on coronavirus, Zhong Nanshan, said the world is heading for disaster if the US can't get a grip on its outbreak. There have been around 250,000 confirmed cases there      
  • The funeral of  Britain's youngest coronavirus victim - 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab - was held today without his family present because they are in isolation after developing symptoms; 
  • The Prince of Wales officially opened the new NHS Nightingale Hospital for intensive care coronavirus patients, saying from 530 miles away that it was a message of hope for those who may need it most; 
  • Health chiefs urged locked-down Britons to continue staying at home to help fight the coronavirus pandemic this weekend as a mini-heatwave is due to sweep the country;
  • Sainsbury's has said it will no longer allow couples to shop together in a bid to maintain social distancing; 
  • Heathrow Airport announced it will remain operational with one runway amid falling flight numbers and fury from passengers at lack of medical advice when they arrive back from coronavirus hotspots.
The new numbers mean the number of people dead from COVID-19 in the UK has risen five-fold in a week, from just 759 last Friday, March 27.
The UK's coronavirus outbreak is expected to get worse before it gets better, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said (Pictured: Paramedics working in London)
The UK's coronavirus outbreak is expected to get worse before it gets better, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said (Pictured: Paramedics working in London)
Public Health England said 173,784 people have now been tested for the coronavirus - 7,651 people were tested yesterday, Thursday, a total of 11,764 times. 
And NHS England, which collects data on the deaths which happen in England, said 604 of the new fatalities happened in its hospitals, with patients aged between 24 and 100.
Thirty-four of the patients had been healthy before they caught COVID-19 and they ranged in age from 27 and 92, reiterating that young people with no long-term illnesses can still be killed by the infection.
Tributes have today been pouring out to 36-year-old nurse and mother of three in Walsall, Areema Nasreen, who died today in the hospital where she had worked before becoming ill - Walsall Manor Hospital in the Midlands.
A change in the information published by the NHS today has seen the health service shift away from naming the hospitals where patients have died and the dates they died on. Instead it has shifted to regional totals as the numbers become too large for specific details to be realistic.
It revealed that today's death toll includes 161 patients in London, 150 in the Midlands, 88 in the North West, 66 in the East of England, 62 in the North East & Yorkshire, 41 in the South East and 36 in the South West.
Scotland today announced 46 more fatalities, Wales 24 and Northern Ireland 12.
The totals of all countries' separate counts add up to more than the official total for the UK because the Department of Health stops recorded at 5pm the day before it publishes the statistics. Some of the deaths outside of England will be counted in tomorrow's total for Britain. 
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today warned the UK's coronavirus outbreak could peak over the Easter weekend and by next Sunday up to 1,000 people a day could be dying from the deadly disease.
Statistics show hospital admissions of coronavirus patients in England appeared to start dropping in London this week
Mr Hancock said it was 'perfectly possible' that the current numbers of deaths being seen each day could double next week.
It came after he was forced to admit his pledge to boost COVID-19 testing capacity to 100,000 per day by the end of April did not include antibody kits, which are seen as crucial to getting the UK back up and running because they can reveal who has had, and is now immune to, the coronavirus.
Number 10 yesterday performed a screeching U-turn on its testing policy as it abandoned the previous centralised approach by health chiefs and finally invited the wider science and medical research sectors to help, with private labs now joining the effort to process thousands of swab tests.
But the Government's shambolic handling of the testing crisis was today exposed by scientists and commercial laboratories, who claimed they offered to help the government two weeks ago to increase antigen testing - which only tells if someone is currently infected - but were ignored.
Increasing swab testing - sometimes called antigen testing - is viewed as crucial because it allows officials to test more self-isolating health workers and to say for certain whether they have the disease, allowing those who do not to return to the NHS frontline.
Public Health England is believed to be assessing up to 150 different antibody tests but several kits have already failed medical checks, including one that was wrong 75 per cent of the time. 
Officials have not revealed how accurate the tests need to be before they will finally give them the green-light.
Manufacturers of antibody tests who have sent them to PHE for assessment today said there was still no clarity on whether their kits were going to be used despite some claiming their devices are 98 per cent accurate. 
But the Government today penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus tests to come forward - despite firms who offered help weeks ago saying they still have not heard back about helping tackle Britain's growing crisis.  
In a desperate attempt to get a grip on the fiasco, the Department for Health and Social Care supplied two forms for British manufacturers to fill out if they could step up to help.
But MailOnline can reveal one firm poised to supply DIY coronavirus antibody tests to Number 10 - kits deemed crucial in ending Britain's draconian lockdown because they reveal who is immune to the disease - has yet to hear back on how it can get its test approved despite approaching them last month.
Brigette Bard, chief executive of Essex-based firm BioSure - which already makes HIV self-tests, demanded Public Health England offers clarity on what it needs, saying 'there is nothing more critical at the moment' than getting antibody tests approved. 
In an attack on the Government's handling of the antibody testing shambles, Ms Bard said: 'We urgently need a specification from Public Health England, so we know what we have to achieve. 
'Matt Hancock has been on all the press this morning saying "antibody tests don’t work, self-tests don’t work" but nobody knows what they are supposed to be working to.
'I want to know, if all these tests are failing and they’re no good, what are they being benchmarked against? Saying a test is a failure when you don’t know what failure is. I just don’t understand it.' 
She added there is an industry-recognised specification needed for the HIV self-testing kits BioSure makes to be brought to market, with the products needing to be at least 99.5 per cent accurate. 
But Ms Bard, who yesterday resorted to social media for Britons to share a post calling on health chiefs to look at the firm's kit, fears the Government does not yet have a standard for COVID-19 tests.
She warned the company cannot start to manufacture the kits - which are just its HIV tests recalibrated to pick up on the coronavirus - until it knows what the benchmark for accuracy is. 
Ms Bard told MailOnline: 'We have spent five years very successfully in the market generating masses of evidence, data, everything, so we have proven we have a highly usable, highly accurate test.'
In a plea on Twitter last night, she added: 'We are ready to go with the validation of this test at PHE. But they won't look at it because it's a self-test... This test needs to be in the UK market.'
MailOnline has asked the Department for Health and Social Care for comment because Public Health England says it is not responsible for approving any kind of test - even though its laboratories are being used to evaluate some. 
Explaining the sluggishness in hiking test numbers, Mr Hancock yesterday said approving faulty tests would put people at risk.
'I understand why NHS staff want tests, so they can get back to the frontline. Of course I do,' he said at the Government's briefing last night.
'But I took the decision that the first priority has to be the patients for whom the result of a test could be the difference in treatment that is the difference between life and death
'I believe anybody in my shoes would have taken the same decision.'

FIRMS WHO CAN MAKE CORONAVIRUS TESTS TO COME FORWARD - DESPITE FIRS SAYING THEY HAVEN'T HEARD BACK FOR WEEKS 

The Government today penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make PPE and coronavirus tests to come forward (pictured, one of the forms)
The Government today penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make PPE and coronavirus tests to come forward (pictured, one of the forms)
The Government today penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus tests to come forward - despite firms who offered help weeks ago saying they still have not heard back about helping tackle Britain's growing crisis.
In a desperate attempt to get a grip of the testing fiasco and nationwide shortage of protective equipment for NHS staff, the Department for Health and Social Care supplied two forms for British manufacturers to fill out if they could step up to help.
But MailOnline can reveal one firm poised to supply DIY coronavirus antibody tests to Number 10 - kits deemed crucial in ending Britain's draconian lockdown because they reveal who is immune to the disease - has yet to hear back on how it can get its test approved despite approaching them last month. 
Brigette Bard, chief executive of Essex-based firm BioSure - which already makes HIV self-tests, demanded Public Health England offers clarity on what it needs, saying 'there is nothing more critical at the moment' than getting antibody tests approved.
Commercial laboratories and scientists drafted in to help yesterday after a screeching U-turn by ministers also exposed Downing Street's incompetence today, claiming they had offered two weeks ago to help the Government dramatically scale-up its swab testing capacity but were ignored.
Ramping up swab testing - often called antigen testing - is also viewed as crucial because it allows officials to test thousands of self-isolating health workers and to say for certain whether they have the disease, allowing those who are free of the killer infection to return to the NHS frontline.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night unveiled a five-point plan to boost COVID-19 testing capacity to 100,000 a day by the end of April - levels similar to those seen in Germany, which has been praised for its quick reaction to keeping the pandemic under control.
But Mr Hancock was forced to admit the six-figure target did not include antibody tests. None of the fingerprick kits have yet to be approved by health chiefs amid fears over their accuracy. Mr Hancock last night claimed one of the tests he was being urged to buy was wrong 75 per cent of the time.
Medics fighting the coronavirus crisis on the frontline have begged the Government to provide proper face masks, gloves and aprons amid claims of a nationwide shortage. The British Medical Association has already warned that doctors will die unless they are given adequate protection.
First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said in a briefing today that her ministers have not found a reliable antibody test either.
She said Scottish Government's targets on testing are proportionally equal to what is being done in the rest of UK, although the expansion to allow 3,500 tests per day in Scotland is slightly higher proportionally.
The Scottish Government is looking at how antibody testing  – which can tell if a person has previously had the virus – can move Scotland out of lockdown, although the test does not currently exist in a 'reliable form', the Ms Sturgeon added.
A testing oversight group has been set up by the Scottish Government, she announced, which has been tasked with monitoring the provision of tests for the disease.

BORIS JOHNSON STILL HAS SYMPTOMS AFTER A WEEK AND WILL REMAIN IN ISOLATION

Boris Johnson is to remain in self-isolation after failing to fully recover from coronavirus, he revealed today.
The Prime Minister was due to exit quarantine in Downing Street today, seven days after testing positive.
But in a video message today he confirmed that he continues to have a high temperature and will therefore remain in isolation.
'Although I'm feeling better, and I've done my seven days of isolation, alas I still have one of the symptoms, a minor symptom - I still have a temperature,' he revealed. 
In a video message today Mr Johnson confirmed that he continues to have a high temperature and will remain in isolation
In a video message today Mr Johnson confirmed that he continues to have a high temperature and will remain in isolation
'So in accordance with Government advice I must continue my self-isolation until that symptom itself goes.'
He appeared at the door of No 11 Downing Street, where he lives, to join in the mass clapping for key workers at 8pm last night.
Mr Johnson also urged people today to stick to the regulations over the weekend and not to be tempted by the forecast of good weather.
He said: 'I reckon a lot of people will be starting to think that this is all going on for quite a long time and would rather be getting out there, particularly if you've got kids in the household, everybody may be getting a bit stir crazy, and there may be just a temptation to get out there, hang out and start to break the regulations.
'I just urge you not to do that. Please, please stick with the guidance nowThe group will be responsible for the increase in capacity of the labs in Scotland, along with the Scottish side of the delivery of the UK initiative to allow 'non-NHS testing'.
Scientists in private labs at research companies and universities across the UK now say that they had offered to help the Government with swab testing weeks ago but never heard back.
Unofficial labs could have been processing thousands of coronavirus tests for weeks, they say, if they had been enlisted.
The COVID-19 testing row erupted this week after Germany scaled up its testing capability to 93,000 per day while the UK was still managing fewer than 10,000.
Public Health England, a government body separate from the Department of Health, is facing the burden of blame for insisting on developing its own tests and analysing results in its own eight laboratories along with around 40 NHS sites.  
Academics and private sector scientists, however, say they have the machines capable of interpreting swab tests if they were given the right information.
There are believed to be thousands of the machines - PCR machines - ready and waiting in laboratories around the country and many owners are willing to help test NHS staff to help them keep working.
Some have already taken matters into their own hands and begun testing medical workers in their local areas.
The scientists are capable of doing PCR tests, which look for evidence of the coronavirus inside people's DNA and are different to antigen tests, which also test for current infection but do so by trying to trigger a reaction from viruses in a sample.
One man running a fully-equipped lab in Leicester told The Times his firm had offered to help the Government but was now testing private clients on its own.
He said: 'We approached the NHS on March 17 to offer our assistance and said we were happy to use all our capacity for NHS work and we've been trying to get a response since then.'
Mr Dunn said the lack of smaller labs being involved in the testing effort was 'a bit of a travesty'.
He thinks his lab alone could work up to completing 1,500 tests per day.
The tests in question are called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and sample people's DNA to look for traces of the coronavirus's genetic material which have got mixed in, showing whether they are currently infected with the virus.
They rely on PCR machines which are widely used in biological sciences for their ability to examine DNA.
A former regional director of Public Health England (PHE), John Ashton, said the body's handling of the testing programme had been a 'fiasco'.
Scientists at the University of Oxford, one of the world's top institutions, said they also had not had their offers of help taken up by British authorities.
Matthew Freeman, a biologist at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford University said in a tweet: 'We have many people experienced in PCR.
'We'd love to help and have been trying to volunteer for weeks. Must be many university departments and institutes in similar position.'Another lab at Oxford - the Butt Group, which studies genetics - added on Twitter: 'I echo this sense of frustration: we volunteered on day 1 and beyond being asked 3 times to list our expertise, have heard nothing.'
Marc Dionne, a researcher at Imperial College London, replied: 'Many from Imperial in the same position.'
Amid the backlash, some institutions are forging their own relationships with local NHS workers.
The Francis Crick Institute in London, one of the country's foremost biomedicine labs, announced yesterday it is carrying out tests for staff at the Imperial College London Hospitals nearby.
It said it could scale up to 500 tests per day by next week and hopefully to 2,000 daily in the long run.
Speaking on Radio 4 yesterday the institute's CEO, Sir Paul Nurse, urged the Government to let 'small ship' private labs help out with the massive testing effort.
Referring to the famous Second World War evacuation of UK forces from the French coast, Sir Paul said: 'A metaphor here is Dunkirk, to be honest. We are a lot of little boats and the little boats can be effective.
'The government has put some bigger boats - destroyers - in place. that is a bit more cumbersome to get working and we wish them all the luck to do that. But we little boats can contribute as well.'
Sir Paul said the smaller labs were 'more agile' to deal with global shortages of reagents. 'We can make pipelines of reagents and chemicals,' he said.
'We can move faster to deal with issues. Of course we have supply chain problems but we can reduce them by being small and agile.'
The Government yesterday hit back at claims that it has been too slow to act and accusations of control-freakery.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who last night pledged England would scale up to 100,000 tests per day by the end of April, said the Government was working hard to make sure the tests it uses are the best they can be.
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical adviser to the Cabinet, has said in the past that the only thing worse than no test is a bad one. 

QUEEN TO ADDRESS NATION IN SPEECH ON SUNDAY 

The Queen will address the nation in a special televised broadcast about the coronavirus outbreak from Windsor Castle which will air this Sunday at 8pm.
Buckingham Palace announced that the broadcast to 'the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth' by the 93-year-old monarch has already been recorded.
Expectation has been growing about when the head of state would make a public statement about the unprecedented events that have put the country into lockdown.
The Queen spoke to Prime Minister Boris Johnson from Windsor Castle on March 25
The Queen spoke to Prime Minister Boris Johnson from Windsor Castle on March 25
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is 'feeling better' after suffering from coronavirus but will remain in self-isolation until his temperature drops.
Meanwhile the Department of Health confirmed 684 more people have died in hospital after testing positive for the virus, bringing the total UK deaths to 3,605.
And royal aides have been speaking to Downing Street for a fortnight about Her Majesty giving a morale-boosting television address to the UK amid the pandemic.
Sources had stressed last week that the country was at the start of a very long and difficult process and that the timing of the address 'needs to be right'.
'Tell us if you can produce testing kits': Manufacturers are baffled after government pens letter pleading for businesses to make antigen and antibody kits - after their offers of help were ignored for FOUR WEEKS 
The Government today penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus tests to come forward - despite firms who offered help weeks ago saying they still have not heard back about helping tackle Britain's growing crisis.
In a desperate attempt to get a grip of the testing fiasco and nationwide shortage of protective equipment for NHS staff, the Department for Health and Social Care supplied two forms for British manufacturers to fill out if they could step up to help.
But MailOnline can reveal one firm poised to supply DIY coronavirus antibody tests to Number 10 - kits deemed crucial in ending Britain's draconian lockdown because they reveal who is immune to the disease - has yet to hear back on how it can get its test approved despite approaching them last month.
Brigette Bard, chief executive of Essex-based firm BioSure - which already makes HIV self-tests, demanded Public Health England offers clarity on what it needs, saying 'there is nothing more critical at the moment' than getting antibody tests approved.
Commercial laboratories and scientists drafted in to help yesterday after a screeching U-turn by ministers also exposed Downing Street's incompetence today, claiming they had offered two weeks ago to help the Government dramatically scale-up its swab testing capacity but were ignored. 
Ramping up swab testing - often called antigen testing - is also viewed as crucial because it allows officials to test thousands of self-isolating health workers and to say for certain whether they have the disease, allowing those who are free of the killer infection to return to the NHS frontline.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night unveiled a five-point plan to boost COVID-19 testing capacity to 100,000 a day by the end of April - levels similar to those seen in Germany, which has been praised for its quick reaction to keeping the pandemic under control. 
But Mr Hancock was forced to admit the six-figure target did not include antibody tests. None of the fingerprick kits have yet to be approved by health chiefs amid fears over their accuracy. Mr Hancock last night claimed one of the tests he was being urged to buy was wrong 75 per cent of the time. 
Medics fighting the coronavirus crisis on the frontline have begged the Government to provide proper face masks, gloves and aprons amid claims of a nationwide shortage. The British Medical Association has already warned that doctors will die unless they are given adequate protection. Health Secretary Matt Hancock, pictured at the opening of the Nightingale Hospital in London today, suggested the UK's lockdown will be in place until the end of April at the earliest
In an attack on the Government's handling of the antibody testing shambles, Ms Bard said: 'We urgently need a specification from Public Health England, so we know what we have to achieve. 
'Matt Hancock has been on all the press this morning saying "antibody tests don’t work, self-tests don’t work" but nobody knows what they are supposed to be working to.
'I want to know, if all these tests are failing and they’re no good, what are they being benchmarked against? Saying a test is a failure when you don’t know what failure is. I just don’t understand it.' 

WHICH COMPANIES COULD MAKE ANTIBODY KITS FOR NUMBER 10? 

MailOnline has repeatedly asked officials to name which companies are in talks with the Government to make antibody tests but has never been offered clarity.
One of these firms is thought to be Derby-based SureScreen, which has shipped its tests to be used in Germany and Spain, among other nations.
The company sent hundreds of the tests - which trials have shown are 97 per cent accurate - to a PHE laboratory in Oxfordshire almost two weeks ago.
MailOnline earlier this week revealed Belfast-based manufacturer Biopanda Reagents had opted to restrict sales to just UK healthcare providers, suggesting it was gearing up for an order.
And Mologic - a Bedfordshire-based business awarded £1million by Number 10 to make antibody tests - this week began the evaluation of its kits at labs run by prestigious universities.
But the company, whose laboratory was visited by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month, estimates it will be up to five months before Brits can use the tests to tell if they are immune.
Oxford Biosystems and Regenerus Laboratories in Surrey are also known to make antibody tests against COVID-19. It is unclear if their kits are being evaluated by PHE.
In another twist in the saga, it was revealed earlier this week that officials had already bought 2million antibody tests from two Chinese manufacturers - Wondfo and AllTest - a fortnight ago.
But it was alleged health chiefs had not even assessed whether the tests are suitable and that they still needed to be evaluated even though Number 10 had already parted with millions to buy them.
European countries have already had to send back defective coronavirus medical kits bought from China during the pandemic.
Spain was forced to return tens of thousands of testing kits and officials in the Netherlands recalled half a million ‘defective’ face masks it brought from Beijing.
WHAT ABOUT ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD? 
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last night authorized the use of an antibody kit made by Cellex on an emergency basis, saying it is 'reasonable' to believe the test works. 
China, where the pandemic began in December, had approved eight antibody tests in its fight against the virus - including one that Britain bought a fortnight ago and is expected to arrive this week.
Germany is also planning on starting a mass antibody testing regime in the next fortnight as part of a major trial to get millions of workers out of lockdownShe added there is an industry-recognised specification needed for the HIV self-testing kits BioSure makes to be brought to market, with the products needing to be at least 99.5 per cent accurate. 
But Ms Bard, who yesterday resorted to social media for Britons to share a post calling on health chiefs to look at the firm's kit, fears the Government does not yet have a standard for COVID-19 tests.
She warned the company cannot start to manufacture the kits - which are just its HIV tests recalibrated to pick up on the coronavirus - until it knows what the benchmark for accuracy is. 
Ms Bard told MailOnline: 'We have spent five years very successfully in the market generating masses of evidence, data, everything, so we have proven we have a highly usable, highly accurate test.'
In a plea on Twitter last night, she added: 'We are ready to go with the validation of this test at PHE. But they won't look at it because it's a self-test... This test needs to be in the UK market.'
MailOnline has asked the Department for Health and Social Care for comment because Public Health England says it is not responsible for approving any kind of test - even though its laboratories are being used to evaluate some.
Other diagnostics manufacturers known to have sent their tests to PHE for trials today admitted there was still no clarity on whether they were actually going to be green-lighted.
Some kits Number 10 are known to be looking claim to be up to 98 per cent accurate. Ministers promised the kits - similar tests have already been approved in China - would be ready to start being rolled out in mid-April. 
Public Health England is believed to be assessing up to 150 different antibody tests but several kits have already failed medical checks, including one that was wrong 75 per cent of the time. 
Officials have not revealed how accurate the tests need to be before they will finally approve them. Mr Hancock warned last night that approving tests that don't thoroughly work is dangerous, adding: 'I will not do it.'
The UK is able to conduct 3,500 antibody tests every week at its specialist military laboratory at Porton Down in Wiltshire. But that specific test is laboratory-based and allegedly cannot be scaled up. 
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last night authorized the use of an antibody kit made by Cellex on an emergency basis, saying it is 'reasonable' to believe the test works.
In a letter to North Carolina-based firm, the FDA wrote: 'The known and potential benefits of your product when used for diagnosing COVID-19, outweigh the known and potential risks of your product.'
China, where the pandemic began in December, had approved eight antibody tests in its fight against the virus - including one that Britain bought a fortnight ago and is expected to arrive this week.
Germany is also planning on starting a mass antibody testing regime in the next fortnight as part of a major trial to get millions of workers out of lockdown.
Antibodies are substances produced by the immune system in response to an infection. They stored away so that if it comes into contact with that same pathogen again it knows how to fight if off.
A member of the public is transported to an ambulance in Euston, London, by ambulance workers wearing personal protective clothing and medical face masks
A member of the public is transported to an ambulance in Euston, London, by ambulance workers wearing personal protective clothing and medical face masks
The benefits of the UK's lockdown are expected to start filtering through to hospitals in the coming weeks and widespread testing to see who has had the coronavirus already is believed to be key to getting the country back on its feet. 
But the government continues to face intense criticism with its opponents arguing that testing capacity should have been ramped up as soon as coronavirus emerged as a global threat.
Scrutiny of the approach taken in Whitehall has only increased after it was claimed that public health planners tasked with preparing the UK for a global health crisis ignored warnings from the World Health Organisation to prepare a mass testing programme.
Officials 'did not discuss' implementing such a programme because they assumed that a new strain of influenza was the most likely threat and testing in that scenario is 'not important', according to the Telegraph. The decision appears to contradict guidance on bird flu issued to countries by the WHO in 2005.  
MailOnline has repeatedly asked officials to name which companies are in talks with the Government to make antibody tests but has never been offered clarity.
One of these firms is thought to be Derby-based SureScreen, which has shipped its tests to be used in Germany and Spain, among other nations.
The company sent hundreds of the tests - which trials have shown are 97 per cent accurate - to a PHE laboratory in Oxfordshire almost two weeks ago. 
MailOnline earlier this week revealed Belfast-based manufacturer Biopanda Reagents had opted to restrict sales to just UK healthcare providers, suggesting it was gearing up for an order.
And Mologic - a Bedfordshire-based business awarded £1million by Number 10 to make antibody tests - this week began the evaluation of its kits at labs run by prestigious universities.  But the company, whose laboratory was visited by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month, estimates it will be up to five months before Brits can use the tests to tell if they are immune. 
Oxford Biosystems and Regenerus Laboratories in Surrey are also known to make antibody tests against COVID-19. It is unclear if their kits are being evaluated by PHE.
In another twist in the saga, it was revealed earlier this week that officials had already bought 2million antibody tests from two Chinese manufacturers - Wondfo and AllTest - a fortnight ago.
But it was alleged health chiefs had not even assessed whether the tests are suitable and that they still needed to be evaluated even though Number 10 had already parted with millions to buy them.
European countries have already had to send back defective coronavirus medical kits bought from China during the pandemic.
Spain was forced to return tens of thousands of testing kits and officials in the Netherlands recalled half a million ‘defective’ face masks it brought from Beijing.  
Mr Hancock, who returned to work yesterday after spending a week in isolation after catching coronavirus, was today grilled on his test pledge during numerous broadcast interviews.
Journalists repeatedly asked him what proportion of the 100,000 tests would be antibody. He said: 'I think that the antibody test, the blood test, at the moment we haven't got a reliable home test. If we manage to get one then that can be easily replicated and we can get into even higher figures, much higher figures.'
Asked why the government was factoring in the antibody test for its end of April deadline given that it does not currently have a test to use, Mr Hancock then replied: 'Yes, but I am not assuming any come on stream, that is pillar three as we call it, in order to hit the 100,000 target.' 
Health experts have said they cannot yet guarantee that people who have had the virus will have total immunity but they do believe those who have already had it will have some resistance to catching it again. 

WHAT IS AN ANTIBODY TEST, AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT TO AN ANTIGEN OR PCR TEST? 

ANTIBODY TEST
An antibody test is one which tests whether someone's immune system is equipped to fight a specific disease or infection.
When someone gets infected with a virus their immune system must work out how to fight it off and produce substances called antibodies.
These are extremely specific and are usually only able to tackle one strain of one virus. They are produced in a way which makes them able to latch onto that specific virus and destroy it.
For example, if someone catches COVID-19, they will develop COVID-19 antibodies for their body to use to fight it off.
The body then stores versions of these antibodies in the immune system so that if it comes into contact with that same virus again it will be able to fight it off straight away and probably avoid someone feeling any symptoms at all.
To test for these antibodies, medics or scientists can take a fluid sample from someone - usually blood - and mix it with part of the virus to see if there is a reaction between the two.
If there is a reaction, it means someone has the antibodies and their body knows how to fight off the infection - they are immune. If there is no reaction it means they have not had it yet.
PCR TEST
Antibody tests differ to a swab test, known as a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which aims to pick up on active viruses currently in the bloodstream.
A PCR test works by a sample of someone's genetic material - their RNA - being taken to lab and worked up in a full map of their DNA at the time of the test.
This DNA can then be scanned to find evidence of the virus's DNA, which will be embroiled with the patient's own if they are infected at the time.
The PCR test is more reliable but takes longer, while the antibody test is faster but more likely to produce an inaccurate result. It does not look for evidence of past infection.
ANTIGEN TEST
Antigens are parts of a virus that trigger the immune system's response to fight the infection, and can show up in blood before antibodies are made.
The key advantage of antigen tests is that it can take several days for the immune system to develop enough antibodies to be picked up by a test, whereas antigens can be seen almost immediately after infection.
Antigen tests are used to diagnose patients with flu, as well as malaria, strep A and HIV. They can also be done using swabsThe row over antibody testing came as Mr Hancock signalled the nation could have a long wait for the end of lockdown. He suggested a mass testing and tracing programme will have to be put in place before restrictions can be lifted.
Such a programme would allow health experts to stop a second wave of the outbreak because people who catch coronavirus could be isolated quickly and all the people who they had come into contact with could also be found and tested.
He told the BBC: 'The first step is to get the rate of infection down so that that isn't increasing and as you say it takes some time after the lockdown is put in place to get that rate of infection, the rate of transmission down. That is the first step.
'Then we need to make sure that we have the testing in place and the tracking so that if we release any of the measures we don't simply then have the infection spread again in the way that it was starting to spread when we brought the measures into place. So it is a very difficult thing.'
Mr Hancock painted a tough picture of contracting the virus as he said he had lost half a stone in weight during his week in self-isolation with the killer bug. He said it was a 'pretty unpleasant experience' and felt like he had 'glass in my throat'. 
The Health Secretary said that at the moment approximately 8,000 patients a day are taking the swab test but the hope is that number will fall as social distancing measures slow the spread of infection. He also said around 1,500 frontline medics are being tested at drive-through centres each day - but the number is 'ramping up fast'.
He added: 'At the moment we think that there are around 35,000 frontline NHS staff who aren't in work due to coronavirus. The number is much smaller than some of the anecdotal evidence that we've been hearing, although of course there may be pockets.'
Mr Hancock has placed Public Health England director of health improvement Professor John Newton in charge of overseeing the UK's testing efforts. Mr Newton warned today that testing right now would not lift the lockdown as testing 'doesn't really' help flatten the curve - a phrase for controlling the outbreak.
He was asked what percentage of the 100,000 tests would be antigen and what percentage would be antibody and he suggested the latter will play a role. He told the BBC: 'The Secretary of State's target was for all of those tests together. He was very clear about that.' 
The government has been slammed in recent days over the 'embarrassing' performance of ministers at its daily conferences in Downing Street, with Mr Hancock's return yesterday viewed by many as a major improvement as he signalled a U-turn on the UK screening regime.
Emerging for the first time since being struck down by the disease himself, the Health Secretary said he 'gets' why there has been criticism as he abandoned the previous centralised approach and urged the wider science industry to help boost capacity. He said the longer-term goal was to have capacity for 250,000 checks every day.
Defending the government's response, a querulous and at times emotional Mr Hancock said that Public Health England had been 'working round the clock' and could be 'proud' of what it had done. Taking the press briefing in No10 this evening after a week in isolation recovering from the virus, he listed five 'pillars' for the new strategy.

Matt Hancock's five-point plan to increase coronavirus testing to 100,000 per day 

Heath secretary Matt Hancock yesterday unveiled a five-point plan to boost the UK's coronavirus testing ten-fold in a matter of weeks.
The five points he unveiled were:
Increase the number of swab tests being carried out by Public Health England labs and the NHS to 25,000 per day by the end of the month 
Shortages of chemicals and swabs have been blamed for stalling progress in this effort so far. 
Potentially PHE and NHS labs are thought to have the scope to carry out 100,000 tests a day by themselves.
Vastly expand the swab testing network using universities and research institutions and private sector retailers like Boots and Amazon
The key move by the Health Secretary was to give the green light for universities, institutes and private firms to get involved in testing.
Up to now there have been complaints of control freakery in a Government insistent on using its own facilities to avoid getting unreliable results.  
Introduce antibody blood tests which would tell people if they had had the virus and recovered
This is the game-changing test that would tell who is able to leave the constraints of lockdown and get the economy running again.
Mr Hancock stressed that there are as yet no proven versions of this test, and the science of what immunity people have after the disease is still developing.
But he confirmed that the government is looking at issuing 'immunity certificates' to people who pass such tests, so they can get back to 'normal life'.
Boost community surveillance to determine the rate of infection and the spread across the country
The abandonment of community testing when the government moved from the contain phase to 'delaying' the outbreak was highly controversial last month.
The government wanted to focus resources on patients in hospital as number rose.
However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that without such mass testing in the community the government is 'trying to fight a fire blindfolded'. 
Boost the size of the UK diagnostics industry
Mr Hancock addressed head-on criticism that the UK was lagging far behind Germany in terms of test numbers.
He bluntly admitted that the UK did not have the same scale of biotech industry as Germany, where many firms already manufacture screening equipment at scale.
But Mr Hancock committed to developing that infrastructure - which will not be a quick task
Swab tests at PHE labs will be increased dramatically to 25,000 a day; research institutions and private sector firms will be brought into the screening system; antibody tests will be introduced if they can be proved effective; community testing will be bolstered; and the overall UK diagnostics industry will be enlarged.
The previous approach on swab tests was meant to ensure checks are conducted properly, but the 10,000 per day level achieved so far contrasts sharply with the decentralised tactics deployed successfully in countries like Germany, which is carrying out up to 100,000.  
Explaining the sluggishness in hiking test numbers, Mr Hancock said approving faulty tests would put people at risk by giving them false hope they are free of the virus. He added: 'I understand why NHS staff want tests, so they can get back to the frontline. Of course I do.
'But I took the decision that the first priority has to be the patients for whom the result of a test could be the difference in treatment that is the difference between life and death I believe anybody in my shoes would have taken the same decision.'
Mr Hancock said the UK lacked a large diagnostics industry so was having to build from a 'lower base' than the likes of Germany, which is testing at greater levels for coronavirus. He also confirmed the Government was looking at 'immunity certificates'.
But leading scientists have said the evidence about the truth on immunity is not yet clear enough. Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, warned they could give Britons a 'false sense of security'.
Fears have been raised that people can be struck down twice after reports in China and Japan of patients catching the disease after recovering. Other scientists believe the evidence for immunity is convincing and even claim that it could be life-long. 
It comes after it was revealed this morning that scientists who offered their help to the British Government's coronavirus swab testing effort say they never heard back from officials.
Universities, private laboratories and research institutes could have been processing thousands of coronavirus tests for weeks, they say, if they had been enlisted. 
Public Health England, a government body separate from the Department of Health, is facing the burden of blame for insisting on developing its own tests and analysing results in its own eight laboratories along with around 40 NHS sites.
Academics and private sector scientists, however, say they have the machines capable of interpreting swab tests if they were given the right information.
There are believed to be thousands of the machines - PCR machines - ready and waiting in laboratories around the country and many owners are willing to help test NHS staff to help them keep working. 
Some have already taken matters into their own hands and begun testing medical workers in their local areas.
The scientists are capable of doing PCR tests, which look for evidence of the coronavirus inside people's DNA and are different to antigen tests, which also test for current infection but do so by trying to trigger a reaction from viruses in a sample. 

IS THERE A SHORTAGE OF PPE FOR NHS NURSES AND DOCTORS? 

It comes as an NHS trust is conducting a search for PPE suppliers amid the coronavirus outbreak and a nationwide shortage of face masks, gloves and aprons, which saw Mr Hancock insist the required stocks exist but argue there had been challenges in distribution.
The University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust (UHDB) issued the tender document listed as 'Covid-19 - PPE' on April 1. It described it as an 'information gathering exercise' to identify those who could supply or manufacture PPE should it need additional supplies in future.  
Thousands of items of PPE were donated in recent weeks to help keep UHDB trust staff safe while treating Covid-19 patients, either suspected or confirmed. 
Doctors' Association chairman Dr Rinesh Parmar last month made an appeal to Boris Johnson, warning doctors and nurses feel like 'cannon fodder' because of a lack of protective equipment and kits.
It also followed a letter in the Sunday Times from almost 4,000 NHS workers who called on the Prime Minister to 'protect the lives of the life-savers' and resolve the 'unacceptable' shortage of protective equipment.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) last week revealed there are medical staff working to save lives and turn the tide in Britain's war with coronavirus that have no access to basic protective clothing at all. 
Medics at Southend Hospital in Essex warned on Wednesday they may need to limit services to a 'bare minimum' amid concerns over a shortage of protective equipment for staff. 
While staff at The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, in County Durham,were last week warned not to resuscitate patients during the coronavirus crisis because of a lack of protective equipment. 
The British Medical Association yesterday launched a campaign to urge the Government to send more protective gear to the NHS frontline amid complaints there isn't enough go around. 
And GP practices say that, when they've appealed for equipment from the NHS, they have been told to buy their own from other suppliers. 
Some staff said they have seen colleagues fall ill because of 'inadequate PPE'  and others are having to buy their own. One doctor revealed to their MP, Twickenham member Munira Wilson, that they had bought motocross goggles for their staff to wear

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