While the coronavirus epidemic continues to rage, Britain’s detection system is carrying a huge load. Under heavy pressure, Britain’s largest coronavirus testing laboratory was also “captured” by the virus.
Sky News exclusively reported on the 24th that there was an outbreak at the Lighthouse Laboratory in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. The staff said that in order to meet the work target, the laboratory has repeatedly violated epidemic prevention safety regulations.
Three of the four teams of scientists at the Beacon Lab have reportedly reported positive cases of COVID-19. In addition, the administrative and storage staff of the laboratory also reported positive cases.
Although it is not clear how many people have been affected by the epidemic, an unnamed staff member of the laboratory said that about 20 people in a 70-person experimental team have been quarantined.
The Lighthouse Laboratory in Milton Keynes opened in April this year. It is the largest testing laboratory in the UK, with the ability to detect tens of thousands of samples every day.
However, the severe epidemic still puts great pressure on the laboratory. Due to the increasing demand for testing, the laboratory is required to test 70,000 samples per day.
A source said that the laboratory tested 47,000 samples on Tuesday (22nd), “but it is impossible to process 70,000 samples a day at our current rate.” In response to the pressure of testing, the staff also gave up the Christmas holiday and rotated in the laboratory’s “compressed working environment” for 12 hours a time.
In accordance with the recommendation of the Health and Safety Executive Board (HSE), the Lighthouse Laboratory should implement a “bubbling mechanism” that ensures social distancing for staff (i.e., only close contact with people within a fixed range and social distancing with others).
However, according to the source, this mechanism is not strictly implemented in laboratories with shortage of manpower.
Staff often move between different teams and shuttle between the halls and dining rooms of the building where the laboratory is located, which increases the risk of cross-infection.
In the laboratory, staff can be tested for an unlimited number of times, and new staff will also be tested upon arrival.
A new employee from the warehouse department sat in a restaurant waiting for the test results, the source recalled, where the laboratory team had previously rested. As a result, the new employee later tested positive for COVID-19.
“The whole thing is simply a good smile.” The laboratory staff said.
Sources expressed concern about the safety of the laboratory, saying that the laboratory undermined the regulations to protect the safety of employees in order to achieve its work goals.
However, this statement has been denied by the British Department of Health and Social Health.
A spokesman for the department told Sky News that they were aware of the outbreak in the lighthouse laboratory, but insisted that the government had followed all the guidelines on the safety work procedures for the coronavirus.
The number of tests they have provided was unprecedented, exceeding 450,000 in the past day, the spokesperson said.” At a time of high demand, our focus is to ensure that anyone with symptoms can get tested.”
“The NHS continues to record numbers of people tested and tracked, and the public is confident that this should be.” “People can get tested once they need it,” the spokesperson said. He also said that all testing services will continue during Christmas.
At the beginning of this year’s outbreak, the British government was widely criticized by the public for its insufficient testing capacity for the novel coronavirus.
In order to improve detection capabilities, the British government promoted the establishment of a “lighthouse laboratory” network. The outbreak, the lab in Milton Keynes, opened in April, is the first lighthouse laboratory established in the network, which was praised by Matt Hancock, the British Health Secretary, as “critical” to the UK’s fight against the novel coronavirus.
According to the BBC, six lighthouse laboratories in the UK are currently in operation in Milton Keynes, Cheshire, Glasgow, Cambridge, Newport and Loughborough.
The Lighthouse Laboratory in Loughborough opened in late November, and the detection capacity is expected to slowly increase to 50,000 per day by the end of the year.
Although the British government claims that the lighthouse laboratory can greatly improve Britain’s detection capacity, it has been criticized that the laboratory network is not fully connected with other medical services.
According to the statistics of the official website of the British Ministry of Health, as of the 24th local time, 39,036 new confirmed cases and 574 deaths in the past 24 hours in the United Kingdom; a total of 2188,587 confirmed cases; 574 new deaths, 69,625 deaths within 28 days after diagnosis.