MILLIONS of tests to find out whether someone has had coronavirus will be rolled out from next week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Downing Street briefing yesterday health and care staff, as well as patients, will be prioritised before it is offered to the general public.

It comes as an antibody surveillance study suggested 17 per cent of people in London and about 5 per cent of the rest of the nation have coronavirus antibodies.

Mr Hancock told the briefing: “We’ve signed contracts to supply in the coming months over ten million tests from Roche and Abbott.

“From next week we will begin rolling these out in a phased way, at first to health and care staff, patients and residents.

“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.”

Mr Hancock also said certification systems will be developed for people who test positive for coronavirus antibodies.

He added: “It’s not just about the clinical advances that these tests can bring.

“It’s that knowing that you have these antibodies will help us to understand more in the future if you are at lower risk of catching coronavirus, of dying from coronavirus and of transmitting coronavirus.

“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.”

On the subject of a vaccine, he said: “We are doing everything we can to get a vaccine and we will only recommend a vaccine if it is safe.

“That means that if we get a vaccine - and I very much hope that we will and we are working incredibly hard for that - and people are asked to take that vaccine, then they absolutely should because we will only do it on the basis of clinical advice that it is safe.

“The question of whether it is mandatory is not one we have addressed yet, we are still some time off a vaccine being available.

“But I would hope, given the scale of this crisis and given the overwhelming need for us to get through this and to get the country back on its feet, and the very positive impact that a vaccine would have, that everybody would have the vaccine.”

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the total number of deaths from all causes is now down to the rate in an average winter.