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Contact Tracing: Computer Software

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN HL1541, tabled on 11 February 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have, if any, to develop a version of the government of China’s coronavirus close contact detector application.

Answered on

25 February 2020

After the experience of SARS in 2003, Public Health England (PHE) developed a series of diagnostic tests capable of detecting all coronaviruses. These were used to detect the second case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus when it emerged in 2012. Following the publication of the genome sequence of Covid-19, PHE was able to rapidly develop further specific tests for this virus, working with the World Health Organization and its global network of laboratories.

The United Kingdom was one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this new infection.

PHE has been approached by a number of diagnostic kit manufacturers and potential end-users who want PHE to evaluate the performance of commercial kits for specific detection of Covid-19 to inform the National Health Service.

Access to suitable positive control materials, including the virus itself, has been limited but the reference laboratories at PHE will now be proactively conducting independent technical validations of commercially available assays. The data from these evaluations will be available on request to pathology service providers seeking to locally implement commercial solutions.

We are at the very start of this process and have responded to some of the companies that have contacted us.