Coronavirus: Hancock pays tribute to lab, pharma, and logistics firms for testing capacity

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Health secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a media briefing on coronavirus in Downing Street. (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street via AP)

Health secretary Matt Hancock on Friday paid tribute to firms in the private sector for helping to build up the UK’s coronavirus testing capacity, calling it “one of the greatest national mobilisations that we’ve seen.”

Deloitte, Amazon (AMZN), AstraZeneca (AZN), and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) were among the firms that Hancock thanked for playing their part in helping the country to tackle the pandemic.

His comments came after the government announced that more than 122,000 tests were conducted on Thursday (30 April), exceeding the government’s target of 100,000.

“We brought together the best civil servants, the best minds from the private sector, the best scientists, the best lab technicians, and the best of the best in the armed forces,” Hancock said, noting that the UK had set bold targets during the crisis.

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“Setting stretching, ambitious goals in a crisis has a galvanising effect on everybody involved. It is a mission,” he said, speaking during the government’s daily coronavirus briefing.

Hancock said that the UK had doubled the capacity of National Health Service (NHS) and Public Health England (PHE) labs, and created three brand new “mega-labs” in order to analyse the millions of test results.

“If we hadn’t been so bold, if we’d chosen a safer, easier path, I just can’t see how we would have built the [testing] capacity that we need,” Hancock said.

“In a few short weeks, we’ve created a new test for the virus in PHE, built a network of regional testing centres, we’ve put a fleet of mobile testing units on the road, and created home-testing kits so if you can’t get to the test, we can get the test to you.”

“So many people have played a part in this work,” he said, calling attention to UK diagnostic companies like Randox, Oxford Nanopore, Medical Wire, DNANudge, and Samba.

He said that logistics firms such as the Royal Mail (RMG.L) and Yodel “got us out of a real hole this week.”

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Hancock further thanked Deloitte and Boots, who have delivered the UK’s drive-through centres, as well as AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Novacyt (NCYT.L), whose labs will go on stream next week.

“It wasn’t just a national effort,” Hancock said, referencing US firms such as Thermo Fisher (TMO), Hallogic, Abbott (ABT), and Amazon, Germany’s Qiagen (QIA.DE), and Roche (RO.SW) from Switzerland.

“This is how we did it. Because everybody worked together with grit and determination to reach a shared goal and they thrived because the team contained diversity of perspectives, backgrounds — and critically a diversity of thought,” he said.

A total of 27,510 people had died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Thursday, Hancock said, up by 739 from 26,771 on Wednesday.