UK launches massive diagnostic network

12 Apr, 2020

The UK government opened its first mass coronavirus-testing facility on 9 April.

The lab, in Milton Keynes, is the first of three such facilities to open. The others — in Glasgow and Alderley Park in Nether Alderley — are scheduled to open within the next two weeks. In March, the UK government requisitioned polymerase chain reaction machines from university labs across the country in order to outfit these central testing facilities.

The labs — which the government says make up the largest diagnostic network in UK history — will prioritize processing samples from health-care providers who are currently self-isolating, in order to allow them to return to work. The Milton Keynes facility can currently process thousands of tests per day, but is continuing to ramp up its capacity through the use of robotics.

The government hopes to be able to analyse 100,000 coronavirus tests daily by the end of the month, health secretary Matt Hancock reiterated on 9 April. Fewer than 300,000 tests have been carried out in the country so far, according to official reports.

Universities across the United Kingdom and around the world are also running COVID-19 diagnostic tests, as Nature previously reported. But these efforts in the United States have been hampered by bureaucratic and logistical barriers, and a lack of a cohesive national strategy.

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