Representative image Photograph:( AFP )
The blood test looks for antibodies to see if a person has already had the virus and might now have some immunity.
Health officials in England have approved a test to find out whether people have been infected with coronavirus in the past.
Public Health England (PHE) said the antibody test, developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, was a "very positive development".
The blood test looks for antibodies to see if a person has already had the virus and might now have some immunity. However, officials have said such tests are not reliable enough until now.
Experts at the government's Porton Down facility evaluated the Roche test last week, Public Health England said, and found it to be "highly specific".
Health minister Edward Argar said the tests would mainly be used on those in the NHS and social care settings to begin with.
"This is a very positive development because such a highly specific antibody test is a very reliable marker of past infection, said Professor John Newton, national co-ordinator of the UK Coronavirus Testing Programme.
"This in turn may indicate some immunity to future infection although the extent to which the presence of antibodies indicates immunity remains unclear," he said.