The UK’s daily coronavirus testing capacity passed the 500,000 mark on Saturday 31 October.
- UK testing capacity increased to 519,770 to help meet demand over the winter period, in ongoing expansion of testing
- this follows announcements of new Lighthouse Labs and partnerships joining the lab network
- rapid testing innovations will further boost testing capabilities
As a result of partnerships with NHS and university labs, new cutting-edge testing innovations and a recruitment drive boosting the UK’s coronavirus diagnostic network, NHS Test and Trace has rapidly expanded testing capability ahead of winter.
In order to meet the unprecedented scale of challenge this pandemic presents, the government has built a national coalition of people and organisations – from national and local government, the NHS, Public Health England, the military, academia, epidemiology, the private and not-for-profit and community sectors – to create a massive scale testing and tracing programme.
Health and Social Secretary Matt Hancock said:
I am so grateful to the teams who have worked tirelessly over the past few months to meet this milestone, building the UK’s daily coronavirus testing capacity to 519,770. More testing means more cases of coronavirus are identified, helping break chains of transmission and stopping this disease spreading.
NHS Test and Trace is a crucial weapon against this virus – but it’s no silver bullet. As cases are rising, everyone must continue to play their part by following new restrictions and advice of NHS Test and Trace if they are contacted.
The government’s commitment to increasing testing capacity has seen the number of labs across the UK’s growing diagnostic network grow through a combination of public, private and academic partnerships.
More than 3,000 new recruits have joined the lab network since April, while advances in innovation and technology continue to speed up processing and add to capacity.
Since the first UK test site opening at the end of March, more than 600 test sites are now in operation across the UK, with up to 40 new test sites opening every week, making the median distance people are now travelling to a test centre just 2.8 miles. The government is committed to continue expanding the capacity of the network of UK test sites and laboratories to make it even easier to get tested and reduce the time it takes to receive test results.
A critical part of the government’s testing efforts is the use of new technologies and innovations, deployed in ways that will have the most impact in protecting people at risk, finding the virus and enabling life to get back to as normal as possible.
As the Prime Minister has outlined, we have started a number of pilots across schools, universities and workplaces to assess the use of rapid lateral flow antigen tests. This is in addition to ongoing pilots in Southampton and Salford using the LAMP no-swab saliva test and LAMP asymptomatic testing for NHS staff.
In addition to these pilots, last week new Primer Design Rapid Turnaround PCR tests were rolled out across 86 NHS Hospitals, which will provide 34,000 tests to patients each day.
NHS staff have received training to use the tests within hospitals, which can deliver results within 90 minutes. The new tests will help to further strengthen the coronavirus response this winter, arming both clinicians with the ability to identify COVID-19 cases quickly and ensure the most appropriate care for patients.
Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding said:
Thanks to thousands of people working around the clock we have built the largest diagnostic network in British history and we are processing tests at an unprecedented scale.
As we set out to do, we surpassed our aim of 500 testing sites and exceeded our target capacity of 500,000 by the end of October. But we will not stop. We will continue to expand capacity to improve test turnaround times, push forward testing innovations to make sure anyone who needs a test can get one.
I urge everyone to follow new restrictions and book a test if you have symptoms in order to protect our loved ones during this time.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said:
To respond to the coronavirus we have built a major testing and tracing system from scratch in five months, and we are constantly working to expand and improve it with new technologies and innovations.
We are working tirelessly to make sure everyone who needs a test can get one, including by bringing in new labs that can process tens of thousands of tests a day, opening new test sites, and trialling new rapid tests that will give results on the spot.