One in six in London, one in 20 in England have coronavirus

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LONDON: Health Secretary Matt Hancock has disclosed that around one in six people in London and one in 20 elsewhere in England have already had coronavirus.

Data gathered from an antibody surveillance study led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests 17% of people in London and around 5% in England have tested positive for antibodies to coronavirus, the Health Secretary told the daily Downing Street briefing.

It comes as the Government agreed a deal with pharmaceutical firms Roche and Abbott for more than 10 million antibody tests, which will first be rolled out to health and social care staff as well as patients and care home residents.

While it remains unclear what level of immunity people develop once they have had Covid-19, some experts hope a degree of immunity lasts for at least a year or two.

However, having antibodies does not automatically mean a person will not pass the virus onto somebody else. Mr Hancock also announced a trial of a rapid 20-minute test to tell people if they currently have Covid-19 following criticisms that people have been waiting days or weeks for test results.

A&E departments, GP testing hubs and care homes in Hampshire will all trial the new test, which will be used on up to 4,000 people. The test does not need to be sent off to a lab and will be rolled out if it is shown to be effective, Mr Hancock said.

Ahead of the press briefing, Downing Street announced a U-turn on the NHS surcharge, saying overseas health and care staff will be exempted from the fee levied on migrants to pay for the NHS.

At the daily press briefing, Mr Hancock said certificates are being looked at for people who test positive for coronavirus antibodies.

He said: “It’s not just about the clinical advances that these tests can bring. “It’s that knowing that you have these antibodies will help us to understand more in the future if you are at lower risk of catching coronavirus, of dying from coronavirus and of transmitting coronavirus.