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Coronavirus outbreak at UK's biggest Covid-19 lab which processes 70,000 tests a day

By Reuters | December 26th 2020 at 10:45:00 GMT +0300

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a visit to the lab in Milton Keynes.

Britain's biggest coronavirus testing lab has reportedly been hit by a coronavirus outbreak.

Three of the four teams of scientists at the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Laboratory in Buckinghamshire have suffered from coronavirus cases, it is claimed.

The lab became the first to pick up on the new highly infectious strain of coronavirus in September, Public Health England said.

A worker has told Sky News that 20 members of the 70 strong lab team are self-isolating.

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They claimed employees had been mixing in the canteen and lobbies of the building.

Warehouse and administrative staff have also reportedly been infected in the outbreak.

It puts the lab's productivity at risk as it fights to manage rising demand after apparently being asked to process 70,000 tests per day.

On Tuesday, the facility only managed to process 47,000 tests, the source reportedly claimed.

They told Sky News: "No chance we'll ever hit 70,000 a day the way we're going.

"The whole thing's a joke."

A bubble system to keep workers separate was being ignored while the lab was short-staffed, the source claimed.

However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) denied coronavirus safety procedures were breached at the facility, Sky News reports.

A DHSC spokesman told Sky News it was aware of the outbreak, adding: "NHS Test and Trace continues to test record numbers of people and people can have confidence that if they have symptoms and need a test, they can get one.

"We are delivering an unprecedented volume of tests - more than 450,000 yesterday alone - and during periods of high demand our focus is ensuring that anyone with symptoms can get a test.

"All our test sites and our home test service will be available for bookings as normal over the Christmas period."

Staff at the laboratory are said to be working 12-hour shifts over the festive period to meet the demand for test results.

Cases are spiking across the country after a new highly infectious strain of Covid-19 ran rampant across London and the south-east.

These areas were put into Tier 4 lockdown, although cases are now creeping up across the country.

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