UK to open two mega labs in 2021 to boost Covid-19 testing capacity

16 November 2020 (Last Updated November 16th, 2020 14:28)

The UK Government has announced plans to open two new mega labs next year to double daily testing capacity for Covid-19.

UK to open two mega labs in 2021 to boost Covid-19 testing capacity
The labs are anticipated to become operational by early next year. Credit: Mufid Majnun / Unsplash.

The UK Government has announced plans to open two new mega labs next year to double daily testing capacity for Covid-19.

Together, the labs will boost the country’s daily testing capacity by 600,000 when operating at full capacity.

To be based in Leamington Spa and Scotland, they will put into use new technology including automation, robotics, and consumables made by British manufacturers.

The labs can help process more tests quickly at a lower cost, resulting in faster turnaround times for test results.

Apart from processing Covid-19 tests, the labs will add diagnostic capacity for critical illness, including cancer and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Moreover, the new laboratories will generate local employment in the region.

Each very high-throughput lab will have a multi-skilled workforce of up to 2,000 people and operate at full capacity 24/7, including the associated manufacturing and supply chain.

For the Leamington Spa lab, a recruitment drive has already been initiated while a campaign will start soon in Scotland once site details are confirmed.

UK Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “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.

“Anyone who joins these labs will be offered the opportunity to learn new skills while receiving training in a lab environment.”

With the onset of Covid-19, apart from developing capacity within the NHS, five lighthouse laboratories were built with another one opening next month.

At the end of April, the testing capacity stood at 100,000 tests a day in the UK and through partnerships, the numbers have reached 500,000 by the end of October.

The government continues to expand the capacity to provide the median distance needed to travel to a test centre at just 2.7 miles.