The UK government has spent millions developing a rapid antibody test to help build up a picture of how the virus has spread across the country. But questions are now being raised over the test’s accuracy and an opaque procurement system that shuts competitors out, reports Stephen Armstrong

In September, Boris Johnson announced Project Moonshot, an attempt to use mass testing for covid-19 “to identify people who are negative—who don’t have coronavirus and who are not infectious—so we can allow them to behave in a more normal way, in the knowledge they cannot infect anyone else.” New tests, Johnson said, “which are simple, quick, and scalable will become available.”

A consortium of businesses—including Abingdon Health, BBI Group, CIGA Healthcare, and Omega Diagnostics—was assembled in April by John Bell, professor of medicine at Oxford University and the government’s life sciences adviser, in a bid to create a test kit that could “be read by the person at home or on their mobile phone camera.” Out of this group, called the UK Rapid Testing Consortium, came the AbC-19 rapid antibody test. The test uses a small drop of blood from a finger prick and shows results in 20 minutes, without the need to send a sample to a laboratory.