Britain to spend up to S$76b on 'moonshot' mass coronavirus testing

People queue to be tested for Covid-19 as part of "Operation Moonshot" in Liverpool on Nov 6, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - The UK government is set to hand more than 40 billion pounds to companies that can help in its drive to ramp up mass coronavirus testing.

Public Health England put out a 22 billion-pound (S$38.9 billion) contract to tender last week for a new "national microbiology framework agreement," which includes the manufacture and development of tests for two years, with the option to extend for another two years.

A separate tender worth 20 billion pounds from the National Health Service Supply Chain, which manages the sourcing and supply of healthcare products, involves on-the-spot tests and diagnostic equipment.

The government has also issued a third tender worth 912 million pounds for the supply of rapid turnaround lateral flow tests. The total scale of the contracts - bigger than the annual budgets of some government departments - was revealed by the Financial Times on Tuesday (Nov 10).

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "As part of an unprecedented response to this global pandemic we have drawn on the expertise and resources of a number of public and private sector partners to support our testing programme."

The total represented the maximum value of the contracts and not necessarily the final amount that will be spent, the DHSC said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told in September of his hopes for millions of Covid-19 tests to be processed daily - a plan dubbed "Operation Moonshot" - in a bid to help Britain to return to normal life as soon as possible.

Liverpool in northwest England became the first city to undertake a mass testing programme last week, and the government said Tuesday this could be rolled out to 66 other local areas.

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