Two new laboratories are set to open in early 2021 (Picture: Reuters)
The Government has claimed that the UK’s daily coronavirus testing capacity will more than double in early 2021, when two new ‘megalabs’ open.
The two laboratories, in Leamington Spa and an unconfirmed location in Scotland, will together be able to process up to 600,000 samples a day at full capacity.
It should mean that people who have been tested for Covid-19 can expect a faster turnaround time in receiving their results – which could have a knock-on positive impact on the under-fire test and trace system. The latest data on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard shows capacity on Sunday was at an estimated 519,951 – though capacity is rarely ever hit and yesterday only 379,955 tests were actually processed.
Welcoming the new labs, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘We didn’t go into this crisis with a significant diagnostics industry, but we have built one, and these two mega labs are another step forward.
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‘Transforming the UK’s diagnostic facilities is not only essential to beating this virus, but it is necessary to build back better – so we are better prepared in future for testing on a massive scale.’
As well as processing Covid-19 tests, the new diagnostic facilities will be used for other critical illness tests, including cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
It is the latest in a series of new schemes to improve the UK’s testing system, after mass testing in various areas across the country was hailed as a way out of the crisis, after the initiative got under way in Liverpool earlier this month.
Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman called the Scottish lab an ‘important step in our fight against the virus’.
A British Army soldier hands a member of the public a swab in Liverpool, where mass testing has begun (Picture: AFP)
She added: ‘The location of the megalab in Scotland is still to be confirmed and we are working closely with our counterparts in the UK Government on this.’
Throughout the pandemic, question have been raised about the reliability of government data on testing and capacity.
Bold targets were set for the number of daily tests to achieve but ministers were accused of switching being actual test numbers and capacity when explaining if those goals had been reached.
Many also asked why capacity was not being hit when there was huge demand for tests.
Laboratory technicians wearing full PPE conduct a ‘sample transfer’ of live samples taken from coronavirus tests, at a hospital in Glasgow (Picture: AFP)
But the Government insists the new labs will increase result time turnaround and capacity.
Meanwhile, the NHS announced it is to set up more than 40 specialists clinics in England for those suffering with the long-term effects of coronavirus.
The 43 clinics will bring together doctors, nurses, therapists and other NHS staff to assess those experiencing so-called long Covid, which can cause continuing fatigue, brain fog, breathlessness and pain.
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