National coronavirus testing centre opens in Milton Keynes

A new national Covid-19 testing laboratory has opened today in Milton Keynes.

Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 6:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 6:36 pm

The location has yet to be revealed, but it is known that the NHS have borrowed specialist equipment from universities in order to open it.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced this afternoon that the government has purchased 3.5 million more testing kits and a "new testing facility" has today opened in Milton Keynes.

This led to speculation that it might be an NHS 'drive thru' facility, similar to those set up in Wolverhampton and London, where people can get swabbed by medical professionals without leaving their cars.

Scientists are volunteering from universities to help with the tests

But, at this stage, it is understood the MK facility is a large centralised laboratory where swabs from people all over the country who are showing symptoms will be sent for analysis.

This is in line with the promise made by Prime minister Boris Johnson last week that the UK would increase tests for Covid-19 from 5,000 a day to 25,000 a day. The most seriously ill patients and frontline staff in the NHS will be prioritised.

Highly specialised equipment called or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines are used to detect the presence of the Covid-19 virus. University science laboratories were asked if they could loan these machines to kit out the new centre.

Dundee University and Cardiff Metropolitan both responded. Cardiff Met proudly tweeted this afternoon: 'Following an urgent appeal by the Prime Minister,@CardiffMetCSSHS has today loaned two Thermo Fisher 7500 ABI Fast platform machines, to support enhanced testing of Covid19. We believe it is only right that we do everything we can to support the national effort."

Machines can detect the virus

Scientists at leading universities have also been asked to sign up to the NHS to work shifts at testing facilities.

As of today, 90,436 people in the UK has been tested for coronavirus and tests have largely only been carried out on people who are already ill in hospital.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament he wanted to get to a point where "anybody who wants to get tested can get tested."