UK plans 125 drive-through coronavirus test centres

The move marks a large scaling-up of Covid-19 testing in the UK

Medical staff at an NHS drive through coronavirus disease testing facility in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures. Reuters
Medical staff at an NHS drive through coronavirus disease testing facility in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures. Reuters

The UK government is planning to create up to 125 drive-through coronavirus testing centres in the coming days, according to a document seen by The National.

The testing centres will administer throat and nasal swab tests for Covid-19 and will be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

The government promised last week it would dramatically scale up testing after coming under fire for carrying out fewer tests than other countries.

About 22,000 people in the UK are confirmed to have coronavirus and the death toll rose to 1,801 on Tuesday.

A letter sent by a body representing clinical research organisations to industry leaders and seen by The National revealed that the government is seeking 2,000 volunteers with a clinical background to staff the centres.

Volunteers will include physicians, nurses, phlebotomists and laboratory technicians, dentists and medical students. Personal protective equipment will be provided to those administering the tests.

The location of the testing centres is yet to be finalised, the letter said, but swab samples will be shipped and processed in laboratories in Nottingham, Edinburgh and Milton Keynes.

Some drive-through testing centres have already opened but are being used exclusively to test frontline National Health Service workers.

The opening of testing centres at an Ikea store and a theme park on the outskirts of London over the past few days came after the government was criticised for not testing frontline health and care workers.

NHS workers who have symptoms of Covid-19 are being asked to self-isolate for seven days.

It is thought the creation of between 75 to 125 centres, which will operate until the end of April, will be part of a larger-scale effort to test more people for Covid-19.

The National has contacted the UK Department of Health and Social Care for comment.

Updated: March 31, 2020 07:48 PM

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