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NHS Expanding SARS-CoV-2 Testing in England

NEW YORK – England's National Health Service said Wednesday it is significantly scaling up testing for SARS-CoV-2 with the addition of new labs providing test services.

The NHS is expanding tests by 500 percent and asking expert labs to scale up capacity and other labs, such as local hospital labs, to begin testing. The expansion will enable 8,000 more samples to be processed each day, the agency said. About 1,500 tests are processed every day at Public Health England labs per day with most being turned around within 24 hours, NHS said, adding that PHE has processed more than 25,000 tests.

The NHS and PHE are testing those at risk and conducting surveillance testing on people in hospitals showing signs of the virus. 

The first phase of the testing scale-up involves calling on 10 NHS microbiology services to increase capacity. Also, 29 NHS pathology networks have been asked to allocate further testing to some of their 122 services.

NHS is also introducing seven coordination centers to return test results as quickly as possible. The agency said that enhanced labs will help ramp up testing to 10,000 tests each day

As of Tuesday, 26,261 people had been tested in the UK, with 373 positive cases. Six patients with the virus have died.

NHS also said that PHE has developed a "highly sensitive test" to detect SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. The test has been rolled out to regional labs across England.