Testing capacity is set to be significantly boosted through the creation of two new Lighthouse Labs in Newcastle and Bracknell.
The announcement of the two new labs follows previous plans to also establish testing facilities in Newport and Charnwood, as the UK Government continues to scale up capacity to help deliver it’s target of 500,000 tests per day by the end of October.
Newly-published weekly data into NHS Test and Trace performance figures showed a 27% increase in the number of people receiving a test for the first time this week, while repeat testing in care home environments continues, demonstrating a growing demand for testing facilities around the country.
The new labs will join the existing UK network of Lighthouse Labs and partner facilities, with measures being taken to recruit hundreds of additional staff and procure new technology to boost the number of tests processed. Surge laboratories will continue to maximise testing as demand rises.
A further 20 new testing sites are opening across the country this week, increasing the number of local booking slots available throughout England.
The Newcastle site is expected to be able to deliver 80,000 tests per day by the end of March, while the Bracknell lab will look to reach of a processing target of 40,000 tests per day by February.
With around two million people in the North East of England entering further local restrictive measures to combat the rising rates of coronavirus infection in the region, the new site in Newcastle will have a significant role in helping to bolster testing efforts locally.
Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding said: “We are working tirelessly to boost testing capacity so that everyone who needs a test can get one.
“Each day, around 200,000 people are successfully booking and taking tests and we are growing our capacity to 500,000 tests across the UK by the end of October, with more and more capacity being added each week.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is that only those with symptoms book tests. The service is there for those experiencing a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss or change in sense of taste or smell.
“If you don’t have symptoms but think, or have been told by NHS Test and Trace, that you have been in contact with someone with the virus, please stay at home but do not book a test. We need everyone to help make sure that tests are there for people with symptoms who need them.”
From today, a new dedicated helpline will be available for nurseries, schools and colleges to seek advice if they have a confirmed positive coronavirus case in their setting.
The helpline will inform educational settings of what action is needed in response to a confirmed case from the latest public health advice and work through a risk assessment. Where necessary, complex cases will be escalated to health protection teams to provide further support.
Usually, full closure will not be necessary, but some individuals may need to self-isolate if they have had close contact with the confirmed case.