Coronavirus 'megalab' gearing up to process tens of thousands of tests each day

  • Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke

Coronavirus testing labs across the UK are shifting from manual to mechanised testing in a bid to increase capacity.

ITV News has been given access inside one of the ‘megalab’ facilities which is vital to the UK fightback against Covid-19.

The samples arrive at 6am, with each swab a suspected case of coronavirus.

This is the first of the government's Lighthouse labs, staffed by an army of trained volunteers.

Until now each swab is processed manually but in order to reach the Government’s target of 100,000 tests a day, the lab must become a megalab.

Dr Tony Cox CEO, UK Biocentre, said: “The limitation of a manual process is that each of these samples has to be handled... to unlock that capacity to go from just a few thousand to tens of thousands, we need to be able to transition this kind of manual work to automation.”

The Ministry of Defence has been drafted in to help set up the lab. Credit: ITV News

It’s an amazing achievement. This lab's been built in 3 weeks with equipment loaned by drug companies and Universities .

Manchester and Glasgow have their own Lighthouse labs opening soon. But some countries have proven testing more can saves lives, and we have lagged far behind.

If the capacity here and at the other megalabs is achieved, Britain will go from laggard to leader in COVID-19 testing. And we are going to need it to keep this outbreak in check during the long months ahead.