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UK Invests $667M to Expand SARS-CoV-2 Testing Capacity

NEW YORK – The UK Health and Social Care Secretary announced late on Wednesday a £500 million ($667 million) investment in new SARS-CoV-2 testing technology to increase the country's testing capacity.

The new funding builds on an initiative announced in August by the UK's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to roll out rapid coronavirus tests from DnaNudge and Oxford Nanopore Technologies to hospitals, care homes, and laboratories.

As part of the new effort, a community-wide trial in Salford will assess if there are any benefits to repeat population testing. Existing trials in Southampton and Hampshire, using a saliva test and a rapid 20-minute test, will also be expanded with the new funding, DHSC said, adding successful trials will be expanded and rolled out to other areas.

According to a DHSC spokesman, the 20-minute test is a loop-mediated isothermal nucleic acid amplification (LAMP) test from UK-based molecular diagnostics firm OptiGene.

Additionally, testing capacity for SARS-CoV-2 using PCR tests will be expanded across the country, and all positive results will be passed to the National Health Service Test and Trace System to trace contacts, prevent further transmission, and save lives.

The DHSC said that to date, more than 16 million SARS-CoV-2 tests have been conducted. The new funding will move those efforts to a new level.

We need to use every new innovation at our disposal to expand the use of testing and build the mass testing capability that can help suppress the virus and enable more of the things that make life worth living," Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement. "We are backing innovative new tests that are fast, accurate, and easier to use and will maximize the impact and scale of testing, helping us to get back to a more normal way of life."