Britain

Private company rises to ‘exceptional challenge’ to double antigen testing

The government's early response to COVID-19 showed the "frailty" in our testing capacity, according to a private laboratory working with the NHS.

Source BioScience is one of a small number of private companies processing antigen tests for the government, letting NHS staff and patients know if they have COVID-19.

The chief operating officer at Source BioScience, Russell Wheatcroft, said he hopes the UK can learn from the pandemic and that there will be more "significant investments" in testing.

Image: Source BioScience is processing antigen tests for the government

Mr Wheatcroft said: "From a personal perspective I think [the testing infrastructure] does show some frailty, obviously there are businesses like ours that will capitalise to a point on some of that…

"It would be nice to see more significant investments so that, should this happen again, we're in a better position. I do believe that we will be and that the blueprint has been written from a test perspective and a government perspective. If in hindsight we could move more quickly we'll use these experiences."

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Source BioScience said scaling up testing at their lab has been "an exceptional challenge" and staff are working 24/7 for the first time.

Since the beginning of May they have doubled their capacity to around 1,000 tests a day and in the next four weeks they hope to be able to process up to 5,000 tests a day. They said what they have achieved in five weeks would normally take between six months to a year.

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The prime minister has pledged to reach 200,000 tests a day by the end of May. When Mr Wheatcroft was asked if he would put a wager on the government target, he said he would "probably keep it to a pint, rather than a full barrel" but went on to say he thought what was an "insurmountable" target may now be achievable.

Mr Wheatcroft said: "From what we started out at here to be in a position where we are now employing 24 people and meeting a target of 1,500 tests a day, five weeks ago that was a complete pipe dream…at the end of the day [the government target is] an ambitious target, of course it is, but everybody is going to try to deliver on that."

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The government has tested more than 1.8 million people for COVID-19 and on 17 May 100,678 tests were taken.

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said: "We have set up the largest diagnostic testing industry in British history from scratch in a matter of weeks. We are working tirelessly to scale up capacity even further through home testing kits and regional drive-thru sites to make sure everyone who needs a test can get one."

As well as the number of tests, scientists have argued that the time it takes to get results is vital.

Earlier this month a scientist advising the government warned that people at risk of COVID-19 need to be alerted within 24 hours for contact traRead More – Source

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