CORONAVIRUS tests could be done in 20 minutes under a new system currently being trialled, it has emerged.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the “on-the-spot” kits do not need to be sent to a laboratory for the results, potentially speeding up the time to diagnosis.

He said: “We want to find out if it will be effective on a larger scale. If it works, we’ll roll it out as soon as we can.”

Trials will be carried out at A&E departments, GP test hubs and care homes in Hampshire.

The news comes as the number of people who have died after testing positive for Covid-19 reaches 36,042. The latest figures mark a rise of 338.

Those who have lost their lives include at least 181 frontline health and care workers.

Locum nurse Andrew Ekene Nwankwo, who was 46 and had two children, died at the Essex hospital where he worked. His brother claims the Nigerian-born medic was not given adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), something denied by hospital bosses.

In separate testing news, Hancock confirmed his administration has signed contracts for more than 10 million antibody tests. Pharmaceutical giants Roche and Abbott will supply some of these to devolved nations, where governments will decide how to allocate them.

It is expected that health and social care workers will get priority, along with patients and care home residents. The first supplies are expected from next week.

At the UK Government’s daily briefing, Hancock said: “The UK Government has arranged supplies of these tests on behalf of the devolved administrations and each devolved nation is deciding how to use its test allocation and how testing will be prioritised and managed locally.

“This is an important milestone and it represents further progress in our national testing programme.”

Last week Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, cautioned that it can take up to 28 days after infection for a test to confirm whether or not a person has had Covid-19.

It’s not yet known how long these antibodies last for and the World Health Organisation has said it is as-yet unclear as to whether prior infection prevents an individual from a repeat illness.

Hancock said the antibody tests will help scientists establish whether or not the presence of antibodies means that “you are at lower risk of catching coronavirus, of dying from coronavirus and of transmitting coronavirus”.

He said: “We’re developing this critical science to know the impact of a positive antibody test and to develop the systems of certification to ensure people who have positive antibodies can be given assurances of what they can safely do.”

It’s thought that one in six people in London and one in 20 elsewhere in England have already had the virus, based on findings from the Office for National Statistics.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said the total number of deaths from all causes has now reached the rate seen in an average winter.

Meanwhile, the contract tracing app built for England and criticised over data and privacy flaws has been delayed by several weeks.

The UK Government hopes to have 25,000 contract tracers in place by June 1 and Professor John Newton, of Public Health England, said there could be advantages in doing the contact tracing process without the app initially. Hancock said: “We want to make sure that this whole system lands well and supports the ability, safely, to make changes to social distancing rules.”