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Stansted Airport becomes drive-in coronavirus testing centre for NHS staff

A drive-in coronavirus test centre for NHS workers is to open at Stansted Airport as part of the Government’s push to carry out 100,000 tests a day in England by the end of April.

Sited in a long-stay car park and featuring up to five testing lanes, it will operate on an appointment basis for self-isolating key NHS workers or their family member with symptoms of Covid-19. These staff will be selected and contacted directly by their NHS trust employer.

Set up as of Good Friday (April 10), the Stansted centre, which is part of a network being set up around the UK, is being piloted for its first few days of operation.

The drive-through coronavirus testing centre at Stansted Airport (33322827)
The drive-through coronavirus testing centre at Stansted Airport (33322827)

Health minister Lord Bethell said: “This new service will help end the uncertainty of whether NHS and social care staff need to stay at home, meaning those who test negative will be able to return to work.”

Key workers tested at the sites will receive their results within a few days. Samples will be analysed at new labs in Milton Keynes in Bucks, Alderley Park in Cheshire and Glasgow, using test machines loaned by universities across the country and public sector research establishments.

The Government is working with Boots and others to set up more than 50 regional test centres around the country.

The drive-through coronavirus testing centre at Stansted Airport (33322830)
The drive-through coronavirus testing centre at Stansted Airport (33322830)

It is also working on setting up a home-testing service for critical key workers, supported by Amazon's logistics network and other commercial partners.

Professor John Newton, national co-ordinator for the UK Coronavirus Testing Strategy, said: "New testing sites such as this one [at Stansted] are a key pillar of our five-pillar plan to scale up testing and are critical in supporting NHS staff who are isolating at home to return safely to work if the test is negative.

“This is a brilliant example of industries and businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale, which will help to deliver on our aim of carrying out 100,000 tests a day in England by the end of the month.”

Ken O’Toole, Stansted Airport’s chief executive, said: “I am very proud that London Stansted has been able to play a small but vitally important part in supporting the Government’s drive to test more and more front-line NHS staff.

Stansted Airport is flying high in 2018. (33322903)
Stansted Airport is flying high in 2018. (33322903)

“As the airport benefits from excellent surface access and currently has space available to accommodate a large-scale testing area, it makes complete sense for us to offer our parking facilities to support the ongoing and fast-moving response to this unprecedented situation.

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of the teams, both here at the airport and within the Department for Health and Social Care, who have moved very quickly to make this possible. This virus has affected communities up and down the country, and we are all in debt to the fantastic NHS and other front-line staff who continue to do all they can to keep us safe and well, so it is only right we do whatever we can to help them in return.”

Stansted has been in constant contact with the Government throughout the pandemic and has played a part in the response "when and where possible", including facilitating repatriation flights to bring home people stranded abroad and hosting more cargo flights loaded with vital medical supplies, medicines and food.

The test centre is being operated in partnership with Sodexo.

Sean Haley, regional chair of Sodexo UK & Ireland, said: “The opening of the Stansted testing site will mean more front-line NHS and other staff can be tested and cleared to provide care to those who need it most. I am proud of our colleagues who are working together with pace and dedication to support the NHS."

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