UK plans 2 new ‘mega labs’ to speed up COVID-19 testing

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London, Nov 16 (PTI) Two new large laboratories will become operational by early 2021 to each add 300,000 to the UK’s daily coronavirus testing capacity, the British government said on Monday.

The so-called next-generation high throughout “mega labs” will create up to 4,000 jobs at two sites of Leamington Spa in England and one in Scotland.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that cutting-edge technology made by British manufacturers will be used in both labs, including automation, robotics and consumables.

It claims that this would mean that more tests will be processed more quickly and at a lower cost, resulting in faster turnaround times for test results.

“The radical expansion of testing has been one of the successes of this pandemic, as it means more people can get a test more conveniently than ever before. 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,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“These mega labs are future-proofing our national infrastructure to respond to future epidemics and improving care for other diseases, such as cancer. The new labs build on our existing testing network which we created in a matter of months and confirms the UK as a world leader in diagnostics,” he said.

The DHSC said a recruitment drive has already started for the Leamington Spa lab, and a campaign is due to start shortly in Scotland for the second mega lab.

“The new very high throughput labs are being set up by leaders of science with decades of experience. At the same time, we are creating thousands of jobs for the diagnostics sector to strengthen it now and for the future,” said Health Minister Lord James Bethell.

“Not only will that mean more tests, but it will also mean they can be processed more quickly, and the time it takes to receive results is reduced,” added Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection.

The DHSC said that not only will the two labs be used to process COVID-19 tests, but the “significant boost” in diagnostic capabilities will be used for critical illness including cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. PTI AK NSA