The UK’s Covid-19 testing capacity is set to double, with major new laboratories opening early next year in a sign that the government is planning to continue the pandemic despite hopes for a number of candidate vaccines.
The facilities, one at Leamington Spa and the other in an unspecified location in Scotland, will employ up to 4,000 people and increase the number of PCR tests – gold standard swab tests already in use across the UK – which can be treated daily by 600,000, from 520,000 today.
The government has said that “mega laboratories” will speed up testing procedures, while the Minister of Health, Matt Hancock, He said it would be useful in “protecting our national infrastructure in the future in response to future epidemics.”
The laboratories are scheduled to be operational in the first months of next year, Department the health And Social Care (DHSC) last night. There were no details about the costs or who would manage them.
On Sunday, one of the leading scientists behind the BioNTech / Pfizer candidate vaccine, which has authorized interim clinical trials and has shown 90% efficacy in preventing people from getting sick, said he is “very confident” It will also reduce the transmission of the coronavirus By “maybe 50%”.
Professor Ujur ShaheenBioNTech, CEO of BioNTech, told the BBC his goal is to return to normal life next winter, with the vaccine program starting throughout 2021.
His comments and the building of new laboratories reinforce warnings that the end of the epidemic is still months away. However, the head of the Office for National Statistics, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, on Sunday confirmed a “slowdown in the rate of growth” in cases in the country.
With two weeks of nationwide lockdown restrictions, Sage’s Professor Susan Michie said over the weekend that The audience must resist breaking the rules To be in a position to see the family on Christmas. Professor John Edmonds, another member of Sage, added: “We need to take a long-term view and be rational and realize that we will have to impose restrictions for some time.”
In addition to the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine, some doses can be ready to run by Christmas as long as results and approval are progressing as hoped. More than 170 other candidate vaccines are in developmentOf these, 11 are in phase 3 efficacy trials.
Results are expected from the University of Oxford / AstraZeneca, a vaccine candidate, within weeks, and there are also high hopes for a candidate from the US company Moderna.
If new laboratories are not needed to test for Covid, they will be used to boost the ability to improve testing for diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and metabolic disease.
The United Kingdom already has five Lighthouse Laboratories in Milton Keynes, Alderley Park, Glasgow, Cambridge and Newport with others established in Charnwood, Newcastle, Brantes Bridge and Plymouth.
Meanwhile, Labor leader Keir Starmer has written to Boris Johnson calling for a national action plan to roll out the vaccine, which he predicted would be the largest British logistics operation since World War II. The government has already ordered 40 million doses of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine – enough for 20 million people to receive the required double dose.
Starmer said city halls and sports centers may need to be converted into local vaccine clinics. He also wants to see eligibility criteria to get the vaccine and ensure “fair access … no matter where you live.”
The new labs will process tests conducted at hundreds of test sites across the country and at home. On Sunday, a test site run by G4S in Bostwick, near Norwich, was found to have been closed after four employees tested positive for the virus.
A G4S spokesperson said: “The site will be deeply cleaned in accordance with Public Health England guidelines and reopened as soon as possible.”
Dido Harding, CEO, NHS Test-and-trace, he said, was needed to match an increasing number of test sites as people go for swab tests. About 300,000 PCR tests are processed daily – double the number in August and 10 times the number in late April.
The new laboratories are separate from the “Operation Moonshot” rapid testing program, which gives results in less than an hour using various techniques and is being tested in Liverpool and Stoke on Trent, and starting Monday, Visitors to about 20 nursing homes In Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon.
“The addition of these new labs will mean another step in our ability to test next year,” Harding said. “Not only will this mean more tests, but it will also mean that it can be processed more quickly, and the time it takes to receive results will be reduced.”
“This work is extremely crucial to tackle Covid-19 and enable normalcy to return to our lives,” Health Minister Lord Bethel, who is overseeing the tests, said of the new labs.