The UK’s daily coronavirus testing capacity is set to double with the opening of two “megalabs” that will be able to process up to 300,000 samples a day each, the government has announced.
The laboratories are expected to open in early 2021 and will be based in Leamington Spa and in Scotland.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the “megalabs” will have an increased daily capacity of 300,000 in each lab. It is hoped this will allow for faster turnaround times to receive results.
The laboratories will also be used for critical illness such as cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
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.”
Scotland’s health secretary, Jeane Freeman, said the labs were an “important step in our fight against the virus”, but added the location of the lab in Scotland is yet to be confirmed.
Meanwhile a scientist behind the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine has suggested the impact of the jab will take place in the summer of 2021 and that we could have a “normal winter” next year.
Professor Ugur Sahin, chief executive of BioNTech, said the next few months will be “hard” but that he hoped to deliver more than 300 million of vaccine doses by April.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “If everything continues to go well, we will start to deliver the vaccine end of this year, beginning next year.
“Our goal is to deliver more than 300 million of vaccine doses until April next year, which could allow us to already start to make an impact.
“The bigger impact will happen until summer, the summer will help us anyway because the infection rate will go down in summer.”
He added: “What is absolutely essential is that we get a high vaccination rate before autumn/winter next year, so that means all the immunisation, vaccination approaches must be accomplished before next autumn.
“I’m confident that this will happen, because a number of vaccine companies have been asked to increase the supply, and so that we could have a normal winter next year.”