UK to carry out a million COVID tests a day by Christmas, scientists predict

A member of staff collects a completed test kit from a visitor at a Covid-19 testing centre in Southwark, south London, after a range of new restrictions to combat the rise in coronavirus cases came into place in England. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
A member of staff collects a completed test kit in Southwark, south London (Picture: Getty)

The UK will carry out a million COVID-19 tests a day by Christmas with results being given in as little as 15 minutes, scientists have predicted. 

The government has already set a target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October but this could be doubled by the end of the year, according to a report in the Times. 

The newspaper quoted an unnamed senior scientist who claimed it seemed “perfectly possible” the country could reach a million tests by the festive period.

The source said: “It’s going pretty well.  They have really scaled up their capabilities.

“By Christmas we’ll be at a million a day, I think. That seems perfectly possible.”

Watch: PM hopes to resist national lockdown

Boris Johnson announced on Friday the UK is developing the capacity to manufacture millions of fast turnaround tests for coronavirus which could deliver results in just 15 minutes.

The prime minister told a No 10 press conference the new tests were “faster, simpler and cheaper” and that work was being done to ensure they could be manufactured and distributed in the UK.

He said: “We’ve already bought millions of these tests, some of which are very simple, meaning you simply need to wipe the swab inside your mouth and can give a result as quickly as in 15 minutes.”

“We’ve started building the infrastructure for domestic manufacture of these tests, ensuring that Britain has the ability to produce millions of fast tests here.

“Over the next few weeks we will start distributing and trialling these tests across the country.”

Andrew Ilesley gets his QR code scanned using a smart phone to demonstrate how to use the new walk-through Covid testing centre in Dundee. The test centre uses a system of connected trailers cleaned using dry ice, the first site in Scotland to have this capability. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
A COVID-19 testing centre in Dundee (Picture: Getty)

Downing Street has also announced further pilots of new testing technologies will begin from next week, across some of the UK’s worst-affected regions.

The government said that hospitals in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Basingstoke and Southampton will test asymptomatic NHS staff, and use the data to assist with Track and Trace.

These pilots will see individuals tested weekly as a minimum.

In addition, trials of new “lateral flow tests” – swab tests that do not require lab processing and can be returned within an hour – would be sent to adult social care settings, schools and universities in the hardest-hit areas.

Johnson said that Liverpool, Lancashire, and any other areas which enter the “very high” alert level would be “immediately prioritised” for fast turnaround tests.

The government will also make tests available to local public health directors to help control localised outbreaks.

Johnson added: “In time we want to use tests to keep open more parts of the economy that have sadly been closed but it is crucial that we make sure such systems work safely,

“I must level with you that it will take time to get this right before many organisations can buy and operate these tests themselves.”

Watch: Can you catch the coronavirus twice?

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