Sturgeon: Testing capacity to be ramped up to 12,000 a day

The testing capacity in NHS labs in Scotland currently stands at 4350 per day, the FM announced.

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Total coronavirus testing capacity in Scotland will be ramped up to 12,000 tests per day by mid-May, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The testing capacity specifically in NHS labs in Scotland currently stands at 4350, the First Minister said.

The Scottish Government set a target of a capacity of 3500 tests per day in health service labs by the end of April.

Speaking at the government’s daily Covid-19 press briefing on Friday, Sturgeon said testing in NHS labs would rise to 6500 a day by the end of the week and 8000 by the middle of May.

Now, counting extra capacity from a drive-through network coordinated by the UK Government, true testing capacity in Scotland is already 8350 tests a day, the First Minister said.

By the end of next week, it is hoped this total capacity will reach 10,500 – and 12,000 by the middle of May.

With this boosted capacity, Sturgeon said testing eligibility would be extended, notably in care homes.

All residents and staff, regardless of symptoms, will be tested for coronavirus at any care homes where there have been an outbreak.

And she told the briefing that all those over the age of 65 who are showing symptoms and their households will be able to book a test at one of the centres.

On top of key workers, anyone with symptoms who is required to leave home to go to work will be able to be tested for the virus.

An online queuing system may be put in place, according to the First Minister.

She also revealed that 22,400 key workers or family members have been tested by the NHS.

The capacity before the outbreak was 350 tests per day, Sturgeon said, with just two NHS labs for testing in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Testing figures from the regional drive-through network have not been included in the daily statistics published by the Scottish Government.

The FM stressed the capacity for tests per day will never match the number of people tested, as people sometimes need multiple tests.

On Thursday, she said 2537 tests in NHS labs had been carried out in Scotland, while a further 2124 tests were conducted at drive-through centres, such as those at Glasgow and Edinburgh airports.

That means 4661 tests in total were carried out on Thursday, comprising 4187 people.

Existing Scottish Government figures suggest only on one day were more than 2000 people in Scotland tested for the virus; however, they did not include drive-through figures.

The First Minister said that increasing capacity was not about “chasing numbers”, adding that it was important to increase the number of tests carried out.

She said the Scottish Government would be working to “extend categories” for testing.

Expanding the testing regime in Scotland, the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government would undertake “advanced outbreak investigation” at care homes reporting cases of Covid-19.

The investigation will involve testing of all residents and staff regardless of symptoms.

The First Minister said that, if a care home is part of a chain where staff move between homes, the testing will be carried out in the linked institutions.

Sample testing will also be carried out in homes where no cases have been reported.

The changes, which will be overseen by NHS Louisa Jordan chief executive Jill Young, will be put in place “as swiftly as practicable”.

She added that the expansion of testing would need to be “clinically driven”.

The First Minister added that the testing expansion is “separate and distinct from our move to establish a test, trace, isolate system as part of our approach to changing and hopefully alleviating the lockdown measures”.

She said she will say more on that strategy next week.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman also said a programme of antibody testing would be rolled out next week, which in theory could tell people if they’ve had the virus.

The programme will last 16 weeks, with initial samples distributed across six participating health boards – Lothian, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Tayside, Highland and Grampian.

An extra 270 samples will also be collected from smaller health boards, with further expansion planned.