Public Health England (PHE) appeared to provide hope that one million home testing kits for coronavirus could be sent out within weeks.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at PHE, confirmed plans were in place for “a million tests that people can do themselves.”
The Professor told the health and social care committee on Thursday, “In other words, members of the public will be able to take a blood test and send it back in the post and get that analysed.
“That is an antibody test that tells you if you have had the condition.
“That is absolutely critical for two reasons: to understand what is going on but also to allow people to return to work.
“That is well advanced but not ready yet. We need to be absolutely sure it is a valid test.
“We expect that to come within a couple of weeks but I wouldn’t want to over promise on that, and I think the chief medical officer has been absolutely clear on it being right before it is put out.”
Professor Doyle said immunity was thought to be at its “strongest” for 28 days after fighting off coronavirus, but the period of protection could be longer.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), told MPs via videolink: “At this time of year, it is estimated that 10% of the population could have a symptom of a temperature or a cough in a non-Covid situation.
“We had situations where many GP practices and hospitals were understaffed, the staff themselves who were self-isolating were telling us they felt able to work but were following the guidance, and that if they were able to be tested they would come back to work.
“It seems counter-intuitive that we are reducing our workforce when we need our NHS workforce the most.
“On March 16 we heard from the Prime Minister an announcement that healthcare workers would be prioritised but that hasn’t materialised.”