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23.04.20

UK boosts testing capacity with three new diagnostic labs

Testing capacity in the UK has been bolstered by the rapid creation of three new diagnostic labs in Milton Keynes, Glasgow and Alderley Park in Cheshire, with each site scaling up to handle tens of thousands of patient samples daily.

Each of the individual Lighthouse Labs sites took just three weeks to complete and begin testing, as the UK government and healthcare industry continue to rally to respond to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Staffed by an army of highly-qualified staff and volunteers from across industry and academia, drawn from all across the country, the new mega-labs are aimed at rapidly increasing the number of coronavirus tests available for NHS, social care and other frontline workers, allowing those testing negative to safely and quickly return to work.

The new facilities will test samples from the drive-through testing sites which have been set up across the UK, with work ongoing to set up a further 50 of these drive-through sites, to operate alongside the 27 already in operation in places such as Wembley, Manchester and Glasgow.

Increased testing capacity has allowed the government to extend testing to a wider group of frontline workers, in addition to the patients, NHS or social care workers needing one who had already been offered testing.

Frontline workers who are eligible – they have symptoms of coronavirus, a high temperature or a new continuous cough – and would like to be tested should speak to their employer. The newest government guidance on getting tested can be found here.

READ MORE: Health Secretary outlines plans for 100k coronavirus tests a day

READ MORE: Government offers commitment to facilitate testing in social care settings

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We have set out our ambition to meet the challenge of achieving a 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month.

“A stream of new testing and diagnostic facilities are being brought online, and the completion of the Lighthouse Lab network is an historic moment.

“This is truly a national effort, backed by Britain’s world-class scientists and industry partners, including teams of expert volunteers supporting the new mega-labs to rapidly increase our testing capacity. Together their efforts will allow key frontline workers testing negative for the virus to return safely to work.

National Testing Coordinator Professor John Newton added: “Every day across the country we are increasing our coronavirus testing capacity. Just a few weeks ago we launched the first Lighthouse Lab in Milton Keynes, and now it is part of the biggest network of diagnostic labs in British history.

“I want to thank all the expert staff and volunteers who have helped make the construction of the Lighthouse Labs possible, and who continue to work so hard to ensure that NHS staff and frontline workers can be tested for the virus. Thanks to their efforts, thousands of people have been able to safely return to work after testing negative for the virus.”

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