Contracts have been secured between the UK Government and two British companies manufacturing and supplying rapid lateral flow tests, which are being used extensively - particularly in community settings - to identify Covid-19 cases and limit the spread of infection.
The two companies, based in Thurleigh, England and Alva, Scotland respectively, have agreed deals with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Under the terms of the agreements, the companies will provide manufacturing capacity for up to 200 million Covid-19 lateral flow tests, which can detect positive cases in under 30 minutes.
Rapid antigen testing can help quickly identify positive cases, allowing people who may have previously been asymptomatic or unaware they were carrying the virus to isolate immediately and break further chains of transmission.
Lateral flow tests have been a key part of the Government’s roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions, including supporting the return of children back to school, keeping healthcare staff and patients safe and supporting the reopening of certain businesses.
Including symptomatic and asymptomatic testing programmes, the UK Government is on track to surpass 100 million tests across the country in the coming days.
The contract awards are set to create around 470 additional jobs in total, both in Thurleigh and Alva and more widely throughout the production line and wider UK supply chain.
Speaking about the contract awards, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Rapid lateral flow tests are essential to help us identify cases of the virus we otherwise wouldn’t find and preventing the virus spreading in our workplaces and communities.
“These tests will help keep businesses open, our children return to school, people to visit their loved ones in care homes safely.
“British innovation is at the forefront of our response to this pandemic and this partnership with 2 Great British firms will help us to build back better by tapping into the UK’s domestic talent, ingenuity and industry.”
Lord Bethell, Minister for Health, added: “The UK continues to lead the way in medical diagnostics, and we are working with [British] companies to build on our expertise in the field.
“The whole industry has come together to respond to Covid-19 and get us back to the people and things we love, helping us stop the spread of the virus now while strengthening our resilience for the future.”