UK paid $20 for coronavirus tests that didn’t work.

two Chinese companies were offering a risky proposition: 2 million home test kits said to detect antibodies for the coronavirus for at least $20 million, take it or leave it. The asking price was high, the technology was unproven, and the money had to be paid upfront. And the buyer would be required to pick up the crate loads of test kits from a facility in China.

Yet British officials took the deal, according to a senior civil servant involved, then confidently promised tests would be.

“You can’t lift the lockdown as long as you are not testing massively,”

said Nicolas Locker, a professor of virology at the University of Surrey.

“As long as the government is not testing in the community, we are going to be on lockdown.”

The gamble on the Chinese antibody tests, though, is also a barometer of the desperation British officials felt as public pressure has mounted over their slow response to the virus. One prominent expert, Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust.

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