Two new labs to be set up amid need for more Covid-19 testing capacity

The Lighthouse Labs in Newcastle and Bracknell will increase the number of tests being processed by tens of thousands, the Government said.
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The test and trace system has come under heavy criticism in recent days with public fury at a lack of tests available and evidence of the national process creaking as demand increases.

Now, the Department for Health and Social Care says it is scaling up testing capacity ahead of winter.

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The new Lighthouse Labs follow the previous announcements of others in Newport and Charnwood, and it is claimed the enlarged system will help to deliver 500,000 tests per day by the end of October.

Two new Lighthouse Labs are being set upTwo new Lighthouse Labs are being set up
Two new Lighthouse Labs are being set up

The four new labs come on top of ongoing work to build capacity at existing Lighthouse and partner lab facilities.

Measures taken include recruitment of hundreds of additional staff and new technology to boost the number of tests processed, the DHSC said.

A further 20 new testing sites are opening across the country this week, increasing the number of local booking slots available throughout England.

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Residents across the country have spoken out angrily after contacting the test system only to be sent to centres nowhere near their homes, with some people being asked to travel hundreds of miles.

And earlier this week Wigan Council's testing site on Chapel Lane, which is separate from the national system, had to stop taking bookings after a backlog built up as people unable to get a test through the Government's system logged on to the local authority website to book instead.

Lab capacity has also come under scrutiny, with some people saying they have faced long waits for results.

The DHSC said NHS Test and Trace has reached a record number of positive cases this week with more than 12,800 people testing positive sharing their recent contacts.

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Contact tracers advised 83.9 per cent of those with contact information successfully advised to self-isolate in the latest week, the Government said.

Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding said: “We are working tirelessly to boost testing capacity so that everyone who needs a test can get one.

"Each day, around 200,000 people are successfully booking and taking tests and we are growing our capacity to 500,000 tests across the UK by the end of October, with more and more capacity being added each week.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is that only those with symptoms book tests. The service is there for those experiencing a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss or change in sense of taste or smell.

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"If you don’t have symptoms but think, or have been told by NHS Test and Trace that you have been in contact with someone with the virus, please stay at home but do not book a test.

"We need everyone to help make sure that tests are there for people with symptoms who need them.”

From today (Thursday) a new dedicated helpline will be available for nurseries, schools and colleges to seek advice if they have a confirmed positive coronavirus case in their setting.

This will help inform educational settings what action is needed in response to a confirmed case from the latest public health advice and work through a risk assessment. Where necessary, complex cases will be escalated to health protection teams to provide further support.

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Usually, full closure will not be necessary, but some individuals may need to self-isolate if they have had close contact with the confirmed case.

The Government also reminded the public on Thursday that anyone who is self-isolating because they have had close recent contact with someone who has tested positive must self-isolate for the full 14-day period.

Tests can be booked via or 119, with new booking slots made available throughout the day. A number of tests continue to be reserved for NHS staff and essential workers experiencing virus symptoms.