Instant (10 minute) COVID-19 tests

You can buy tests, proper ones. I found a proper medical supplies company, and tried to order proper branded (Roche) antibody tests.

First off, these are not intended as home test kits - they are for clinical staff, or people like occupational health in a business. The later is where we come in, doing tests for staff. The antibody tests ("have I had it?") are a pack of 40 tests, and the antigen tests ("do I have it now?") are a pack of 25.

I ordered on my phone, antibody tests, £399+VAT, paid, pre-12 delivery.

I was surprised no order confirmation, and naturally assumed I had mistyped email address. Anyway, next day, 12 came and went, so I emailed in, and no immediate reply.

So I tried ordering on my Mac. Again, order went through, but nicely only £299+VAT now as price went down. At the end of the order there is an error, and even suggests does not work on Safari?

If they know it does not work, why not fix it, or write to a standard and not for a specific browser. But no, they process the order all the way to the end and take payment, and then lose the order. I assume the same happened on my phone, but probably off the screen. They could have said at the start "We are too dumb to work with the default browser on one of the most popular platforms on the planet, sorry".

So I run up Firefox and try again. This time I decide to get antigen tests too at £250+VAT. This time I get and order confirmation email and shows my order on their web site, yay. I can always claw back off Amex if not refunded for other two.

I emailed explaining and specifying the only order I want is the final one, giving order number, etc, just the two items.

They send antibody tests

Yay, 40 antibody tests, so we can test staff. Good. But why only antibody? Finally getting emails back and they say they will sort it.

I get invoice for £399+VAT

They say they will sort it. Should be only £299+VAT.

I get another box of 40 antibody tests

They say they will collect and sort it, and antigen tests by Saturday

Saturday comes and goes

They say they will be with me Monday

Monday comes and goes

Eventually, Tuesday, not pre-12, I get a parcel.

Delivery note says antigen tests x 25, yay.

Box says antibody tests x 40


They say they will sort it and collect Wednesday

Wednesday comes, and a DPD man arrives, yay. Except he arrives at the invoice address (the office).


Update: a confused DPD driver, with no labels, arrived just before 5pm, having had a message to do an extra pick up!

Antigen tests do exist

I also ordered on Friday 25 antigen tests to my colleague so he can test himself and his colleagues before we meet later in the week. They arrive. They are right. They took 2 days and not pre-12 though. Not impressed.

If I don't get the antigen tests in time, we'll be doing instant antigen tests before we start as he is bringing them with him. Even so, we'll have masks and gloves and isopropyl alcohol, etc.

Update: The antigen tests turned up - at the wrong address (office), but we have them at last. We were able to do tests before work on the teletype this weekend. Just chasing my refunds now.

More about the tests

The antibody tests are a simple blood test - around 2 drops of blood (20ul), and three drops of buffer solution from a batch controlled bottle. Note this means you cannot "send a test" to someone as the buffer solution bottle if for the 40 tests. It takes 10 minutes. I also got a box of single use sprung lancets to make it easy (and gloves, etc).

Nobody tested at work has antibodies - even though several people convinced they must have had it.

Update: One person has tested positive for antibodies now - they were notably ill last Christmas. Interesting.

The antigen tests are a nose swab, but are self contained so could be sent to someone if needed.


  1. "Nobody tested at work has antibodies - even though several people convinced they must have had it."

    Or the tests don't work? You need to test someone that has had it as a control?

    Reminds me of people who swear that their AV software must be working well as they don't have any detected virii... How can they tell for sure? :)

  2. I don't understand all the doom-mongering in the press about oh no antibody responses are fading fast that means immunity is impossible. It just means this is a normal viral disease. Most viral diseases are like this.

    It's perfectly normal for people who've had viral diseases not to have detectable levels of antibodies. Firstly, it takes a couple of weeks to produce significant antibody levels: a lot of diseases get squashed by the innate immune response and T cell activity before then, and there's no need to spend the (really rather large) amount of energy needed generating suitable antibodies; secondly, the antibody level drops almost at once, soon reaching levels undetectable by most tests: again, this is normal and does not indicate that you are not immune, because memory B cells persist and will replicate to reproduce relevant antibodies much more rapidly (within a day or so) when the disease is encountered again.

    So, in brief, having a positive antibody response indicates you had covid-19 recently, and probably noticed it too -- but *not* having one does *not* mean you haven't had it nor that you aren't immune.

    T cell tests can determine whether you are immune or not, but those are *much* harder to do, take weeks of lab time, and nobody expects them to be done on a mass scale. This has been done on a small scale, and it appears that SARS-CoV-2 does produce a long-lasting T cell response (just like its close relative SARS: people who had that appear to still have a T cell response to it nearly two decades later).

    The one thing you really should do, though is make sure you've either already had measles or have had an MMR jab: if you haven't, try to get one sooner or later. Measles preferentially infects and kills memory T and B cells, wiping the immune memory clean of everything other than immunity to measles -- including wiping it of immunity to SARS-CoV-2. You really don't want that to happen.)


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