Two new coronavirus ‘megalabs’ are set to open next year, doubling the UK’s daily testing capacity.
The Government has announced one will be in England and the other in Scotland.
One laboratory will be based in Leamington Spa, but the Scottish location hasn’t yet been confirmed.
They will be able to process up to 600,000 samples a day when operating at full capacity, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The latest data on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard shows capacity on Sunday was at an estimated 519,951 – with 379,955 tests actually processed.
This increased daily capacity of 300,000 in each lab will mean faster turnaround times for results, according to DHSC, while each facility will have a workforce of up to 2,000 people once fully staffed.
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 Government said.
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.”
Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman called the Scottish lab an “important step in our fight against the virus”, but said its location is yet to be confirmed.
“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,” she said.
Interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding, added: “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.”