June 22 (UPI) — British health officials on Monday began trials for a home-based, “no-swab” COVID-19 saliva test, seen as a “promising” alternative to current methods widely regarded as uncomfortable and invasive.
Testing for COVID-19 infection now require inserting swabs deep into throat and nasal passages, frequently causing people to gag. These tests are also difficult to self-administer, necessitating visits to testing centers where they must be performed by health care workers.
But a new method being tested in the British city of Southampton, coronavirus tests can be completed at home by spitting into a “sample pot” that will be tested for the virus, the government’s health department announced.
Under the first phase of the trial, more than 14,000 healthcare staffers, key workers and others in Southampton will submit weekly saliva samples for a month for analysis and comparison to the swab tests COVID-19 infection.
The saliva test, officials predicted, will be “significant” in efforts to increase testing capacity and accessibility and has already been shown to be “highly promising.”
“Saliva testing could potentially make it even easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home, without having to use swabs,” Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said. “This trial will also help us learn if routine, at-home testing could pick up cases of the virus earlier.”
The new testing method is being introduced as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson weighs whether to further relax coronavirus-related lockdown rules.
Johnson will appear in Parliament Tuesday where he is expected to announce if pubs can reopen on July 4 and whether social distancing rules requiring people from different households to stay at least 6 feet, 6 inches apart can be modified.