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UK to invest £500 million in next generation COVID-19 testing

Matt Hancock has announced that the £500 million investment will go towards new COVID-19 testing technologies and increased testing capacity.

A new £500 million funding package is to be invested in next generation COVID-19 testing technology and increased testing capacity, the UK Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

According to Hancock, the current large-scale COVID-19 testing system in the UK has carried out more than 16 million tests and this new funding for quick result test trials and repeat population testing will help increase the programme. 

A new, community-wide trial in Salford will launch imminently to assess the benefits of repeat population testing. Existing trials in Southampton and Hampshire, using a saliva test and a rapid 20-minute test, will also be expanded using the new funding.

Hancock said that by using this cutting-edge technology to widely roll out rapid tests, chains of transmission will be broken almost immediately by delivering on-the-spot results. Successful trials will then be expanded and rolled out more widely.

The funding will also be used to further extend capacity for existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing across the country. All positive results will be passed to the National Health Service (NHS) Test and Trace system, to trace contacts, prevent further transmission and save lives.

“Testing is a vital line of defence in combating this pandemic. Over the past six months we have built almost from scratch one of the biggest testing systems in the world. 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. We are backing innovative new tests that are fast, accurate and easier to use and will maximise the impact and scale of testing, helping us to get back to a more normal way of life… New tests will be limited to certain settings as trials continue. Trials will also look at the benefits of mass testing, and how the testing programme can be improved and scaled up ahead of winter,” said Hancock. 

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