British pharmacy chain sells LumiraDx 12-minute COVID test for consumer use in those without symptoms

Testing company LumiraDx is selling its pandemic virus rapid test across the U.K. targeting individuals without any COVID-19 symptoms.

These will initially be made available via 50 Boots stores, a consumer pharmacy and should take around 12 minutes and work via a nose swab, which can be entered into a portable machine inside the shop. A test can be booked online.

The tests, however, remain controversial: At £120 ($156), they are not cheap, and as they are set up for those without symptoms, it could lead to a swath of people spending large sums on tests despite not having the virus.

“A negative test today tells you nothing really about whether you are going to be positive a day or two later," said Paul Hunter, M.D., from the University of East Anglia, talking to BBC News.

But on the flip side, controlling so-called asymptomatic spread, whereby individuals may have the disease and be infectious but carry no symptoms, is an important factor in tamping down the spread of SARS-CoV-02.

LumiraDx, which also provides antigen tests for those who believe they have been infected in the past, said its kit is “for peace of mind,” but also clearly for revenue. Boots added it had also taken up the tests to help ease pressure on the U.K. National Health Service (NHS).

In the U.K. those who believe they have COVID-19 are told to stay at home and order a test from the taxpayer-funded NHS.

“Boots has supported the government’s COVID-19 testing programme from the very start and offering this new in-store service is the next step in our efforts to fight against the pandemic,” said Seb James, managing director of Boots U.K. and ROI.