Two new Lighthouse Labs in Newcastle and Bracknell will join the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities created in British history to help scale up testing capacity ahead of winter.
News of the two new labs follows previous announcements of others in Newport and Charnwood, which will scale testing capacity to help deliver 500,000 tests per day by the end of October.
The four new labs come on top of ongoing work to build capacity at existing Lighthouse and partner lab facilities. Measures taken include recruitment of hundreds of additional staff and new technology to boost the number of tests processed. Surge laboratories will continue to maximise testing as demand rises. A further 20 new testing sites are opening across the country this week, increasing the number of local booking slots available throughout England.
New labs in Newcastle and Bracknell will help increase capacity by tens of thousands, gradually increasing the number of tests they can process over the coming months. Newcastle will be able to deliver 80,000 tests per day by the end of March, and Bracknell 40,000 tests per day by February.
Interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding, said: "We are working tirelessly to boost testing capacity so that everyone who needs a test can get one. Each day, around 200,000 people are successfully booking and taking tests and we are growing our capacity to 500,000 tests across the UK by the end of October, with more and more capacity being added each week."
A new dedicated helpline will also be available for nurseries, schools and colleges to seek advice if they have a confirmed positive coronavirus case in their setting. The helpline will inform educational settings of what action is needed in response to a confirmed case from the latest public health advice and work through a risk assessment. Where necessary, complex cases will be escalated to health protection teams to provide further support. Usually, full closure will not be necessary, but some individuals may need to self-isolate if they have had close contact with the confirmed case.
Tests can be booked via gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or 119, with new booking slots made available throughout the day. A number of tests continue to be reserved for NHS staff and essential workers experiencing virus symptoms.