Public Health England said that rapid lateral flow tests being deployed in the country's mass-testing programme can identify the variant.

Britain and drugmaker Roche on Wednesday offered reassurances that the accuracy of diagnostic tests used to detect COVID-19 was unlikely to be affected by a fast-spreading mutant strain of the virus.

Public Health England said that rapid lateral flow tests being deployed in the country's mass-testing programme can identify the variant.

Separately, Roche said neither its molecular test for COVID-19 nor a combination COVID-19/Influenza molecular test used on its high-throughput diagnostic machines was likely to be impacted by the mutations.

The reason, the Swiss company said, was that the mutations occurred on different regions of the new coronavirus than the regions that are targeted for the tests.

Roche also said that five other tests it sells - Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Test, Elecsys SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Test and Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2 S Test as well as its SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Antigen Test and SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Antibody Test - were also unlikely to be eluded by the variant.

Roche said that it would conduct further tests on the rapid antibody test that it makes in partnership with South Korea's SD Biosensor, just to make sure.

"We will share our findings, as soon as these indications have concluded," the Basel-based company said.

The rapidly spreading mutation has prompted deep concerns in Britain and beyond that it will make fighting the pandemic even more difficult as infections accelerate. Nations including Switzerland have announced a series of travel bans and restrictions aimed at helping limit the spread of the strain outside Britain.

Vaccine makers including Pfizer and BioNTech are also investigating whether the mutant virus that emerged in Britain could elude their shots, and say they need about two weeks to make a determination. They say they expect them to still work, but said the data needs to bear that out.