A drive-in coronavirus testing centre is to open at London Stansted as part of the Government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS workers.
Stansted coronavirus testing centre to open for frontline NHS workers
The site is part of a rapidly expanding network of testing centres being set up around the UK, and will operate on an appointment basis for self-isolating key NHS workers, or the symptomatic member of their family. These NHS workers will be selected and contacted directly by their NHS Trust.
This follows the launch of the Government’s partnership with universities, research institutes and companies to begin rollout of the network of new labs and field testing sites across the UK, with 13 new testing centres opened to date.
This network will provide thousands more PCR swab tests, which are used to identify if you currently have the virus, for critical key workers – starting with NHS front line staff. This means those who test negative for coronavirus can return to work as soon as possible, and those who test positive are able to recover.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said:n“The Government is rapidly scaling up the national effort to boost testing capacity for coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, support our NHS, and ultimately save lives.
“This new service will help end the uncertainty of whether NHS and social care staff need to stay at home meaning those who test negative will be able to return to work.
“This is a national effort and we are proud to be working with a number of partners to turn this ambition into a reality and roll out additional capacity to where it is needed.”
Professor John Newton, National Coordinator for the UK Coronavirus Testing Strategy, said: “New testing sites such as this one are a key pillar of our 5-pillar plan to scale up testing, and are critical in supporting NHS staff who are isolating at home to return safely to work if the test is negative.
“This is a brilliant example of industries and businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale, which will help to deliver on our aim of carrying out 100,000 tests a day in England by the end of the month.”
The Stansted Airport testing site is being operated in partnership with Sodexo. It will provide up to 5 testing lanes. The testing site is being piloted for its first few days of operation.
Ken O’Toole, London Stansted’s CEO, said: “I am very proud that London Stansted has been able to play a small but vitally important part in supporting the government’s drive to test more and more frontline NHS staff by making available one of our main long-stay car parks.
“During the pandemic we have been in constant contact with the government, and have looked to play our part in the response when and where possible, including facilitating repatriation flights to get people home and hosting more essential cargo flights to bring in vital medical supplies, medicines and food.
“As the airport benefits from excellent surface access and currently has space available to accommodate a large-scale testing area it makes complete sense for us to offer our parking facilities to support the on-going and fast-moving response to this unprecedented situation.
“I’d also like to say a huge thank you to all of the teams, both here at the airport and within the Department for Health and Social Care, who have moved very quickly to make this possible. This virus has affected communities up and down the country, and we are all in debt to the fantastic NHS and other frontline staff who continue to do all they can to keep us safe and well so it is only right we do whatever we can to help them in return.”
Sean Haley, regional chair of Sodexo UK & Ireland said: “Sodexo teams have moved quickly to set up COVID-19 testing centres as part of the industry-wide effort to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The opening of the Stansted testing site will mean more frontline NHS and other staff can be tested and cleared to provide care to those who need it most.
“I am proud of our colleagues who are working together with pace and dedication to support the NHS."
Key workers tested at the drive in sites will receive their test results within a few days.
Samples from the testing sites will be analysed at new labs that have been set up in Milton Keynes, Alderley Park and Glasgow, using Thermo Fisher Scientific test machines loaned by universities across the country and public sector research establishment. Industry are also actively helping to establish these laboratories and the Government is working with Boots and other partners to set-up over 50 regional test centres around the country.
The Government is also urgently working on setting up a home-testing service for critical key workers, supported by Amazon's logistics network and other commercial partners.
London Stansted is London's third-busiest airport, currently serving around 22 million passengers a year. The airport is ideally located in between the global tech and life science hubs of London and Cambridge.