Coronavirus 'megalab' to be created in Scotland

The launch of a coronavirus “megalab” in Scotland has been labelled as an important step in the fight against Covid-19.

The UK's daily coronavirus testing capacity is set to more than double with the opening of two new "megalabs" early near year, the UK Government has announced.

Two laboratories, the first based in Leamington Spa and another in Scotland, will add 600,000 of daily testing capacity when operating at full capacity, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

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This increased capacity of 300,000 in each lab will mean faster turnaround times for results, according to DHSC.

A lab technician sorts blood samples inside a lab for a Covid-19 vaccine study. Picture: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
A lab technician sorts blood samples inside a lab for a Covid-19 vaccine study. Picture: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

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Each facility will have a workforce of up to 2,000 people once fully staffed.

The location of the Scottish lab is yet to be confirmed.

As well as processing Covid-19 tests, these new diagnostic facilities will be used for critical illness including cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

A recruitment drive has already begun for the Leamington Spa lab and a campaign is due to start shortly in Scotland, the UK Government said.

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the lab based north of the Border was expected to create around 1,800 jobs once fully operational.

“The establishment of a Covid-19 ultra-high throughput lab in Scotland is an important step in our fight against the virus,” she said.

"When fully operational this highly sensitive diagnostic laboratory will process up to 300,000 samples a day, significantly increasing the testing and diagnostic capacity of the country.

“The location of the megalab in Scotland is still to be confirmed and we are working closely with our counterparts in the UK Government on this.

"The facility, which will follow on from the lab in Leamington Spa, will also have the flexibility to provide diagnostic capability in the future for other diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and will support Scotland’s growing precision medicine industry.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "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.

"Transforming the UK's diagnostic facilities is not only essential to beating this virus, but it is necessary to build back better, so we are better prepared in future for testing on a massive scale."

He added: "The work going on in these labs is ultimately working to save lives and I am hugely grateful for everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this."

Interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding, said: "We have already reached our goal of 500,000 testing capacity per day by the end of October, but we have not stopped.

"Our lab network includes the NHS, academia, the not-for-profit and the private sector and the addition of these new labs will mean another step up in our testing capacity next year.

"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."

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