Britain to open virus test megalabs

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Britain will open two new laboratories in early 2021 that will more than double the country's capacity for carrying out COVID-19 tests.

The "megalabs", one in Leamington Spa near the central English city of Birmingham, and the other in Scotland, will boost daily testing capacity by 600,000 when at full capacity.

"We didn't go into this crisis with a significant diagnostics industry but we have built one and these two mega labs are another step forward," Britain's health minister, Matt Hancock, said on Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised a "world-beating" national test-and-trace system earlier this year but the government's scientific advisory body said last month its impact on virus transmission was marginal.

As well as testing for COVID-19, the new labs are intended to boost Britain's diagnostic capabilities for critical illnesses including cancer and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Britain increased daily testing capacity to 500,000 by the end of October from 100,000 at the end of April.

The United Kingdom has the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe. The tally passed 50,000 last week.