Boots is launching a coronavirus testing service with results in just 12 minutes.
The high-speed test has proved 97 per cent accurate in trials and should be available within a fortnight. But the chain is also offering a 48-hour service from today and hopes 200 branches will have both tests by Christmas.
Chief executive Sebastian James said it was the first step toward mass testing on high streets and a way to allow Britons to get on with their lives again. Boots will initially charge £120 but this is likely to fall if demand grows.
The tests are aimed at those who have no symptoms but are seeking peace of mind. Anyone who suspects they have Covid-19 is advised to go to an NHS testing station.
In other developments:
- Another 151 virus deaths were reported yesterday, twice the figure a week earlier, along with 19,790 cases;
- Hospitals are rapidly filling up, with 1,142 patients admitted yesterday – the highest daily total since May 7;
- Middle-class workers in commuter towns, seaside resorts and manufacturing hubs are among the worst hit, experts said;
- Fewer than one in six doctors have starting catching up on the backlog of NHS treatment caused by lockdown, a BMA survey shows;
- The scientist leading the development of the Oxford University vaccine said it was likely to reach key health workers and high-risk patients by Christmas;
- Quarantine periods for people who have contact with Covid-19 sufferers could be reduced to between seven and ten days amid reports of widespread non-compliance;
- Hospices are still being denied regular coronavirus testing, meaning the dying are not able to see loved ones;
- Wales may need a second ‘firebreak’ lockdown in the new year after numbers in critical care surged by 57 per cent in a week.
Boots is launching a coronavirus testing service (pictured) with results in just 12 minutes
The number of new fatalities was at roughly 125 percent on the same day in the previous week
The number of new infections increased by around 17 percent today
Boots has bought 100 portable devices from US diagnostics firm Lumira that can give a verdict on a swab almost immediately.
They will be distributed to stores over the next few weeks.
Initial customers are expected to be travellers and companies seeking to bring staff back on to their premises.
The tests could allow people to travel, to mix with friends and family and to return to offices that have been all but deserted.
Mr James said: ‘We don’t want to make a profit out of it. We are just covering our costs as there is a big upfront outlay for all the kit.
The high-speed test (pictured) has proved 97 per cent accurate in trials and should be available within a fortnight. But the chain is also offering a 48-hour service from today and hopes 200 branches will have both tests by Christmas
‘My thinking is that if the volume is large we will be able to bring the price down. I’m hoping lots of people will want to do it and if they do, then we can make the price more accessible.
‘We believe we are the cheapest private test. We think it is pretty good value compared to others on the high street, which range from £270 at the very expensive end to about £150 in online clinics.
‘Once it becomes more accessible in terms of cost it could be a very important weapon in the armoury against Covid.’ The £120 fees covers third party laboratory testing, courier services, digital services, staff wages and VAT.
Boots is also installing consultation rooms.
From this week the tests will be offered in ten stores in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Fifty branches will be added in November with up to 200 by the end of the year if there is enough demand.
Customers can book through an online app. Tests are administered by trained staff in private rooms in a local store. The company believes that the service will ease pressure on NHS and government testing programmes.
Boots will initially charge £120 for the test (pictured) but this is likely to fall if demand grows
It is more expensive than the airport service for passengers flying from Heathrow to Hong Kong, who can opt to pay for a rapid Covid-19 tests at £80.
But airport testing is still not widely available across different routes and passengers run the risk of being unable to board on the day, whereas a test at Boots could be performed in advance. The chain is already carrying out tests for passengers travelling to the UAE and is in talks with other airlines.
Boots has been hard hit by the pandemic, with a sharp decline in sales and 4,000 job losses planned among its 54,000 UK staff.
Online business is growing rapidly however. Mr James is expanding healthcare services on the web and has been revamping stores, bringing in beauty brands such as singer Rihanna’s Fenty.
Founded in Nottingham in the 19th century and still headquartered there, Boots is now part of a global pharmacy giant, Walgreens Boots Alliance, created by Italian billionaire Stefano Pessina, 79.
His partner, Ornella Barra, 66, has recently been put in charge of operations outside the US, including Boots.
Speedy swab that can provide peace of mind (if you’ve got the cash)
By Ruth Sunderland business editor for the Daily Mail
At the risk of tempting fate, I haven’t felt the need to take a Covid test during the pandemic and have been very thankful for it. The thought of possibly having to drive to a faraway location and wait in a long queue is extremely offputting.
Popping into my local Boots to do a pre-booked test is an entirely different proposition, though. And, as the first reporter to see the chain’s 12-minute Covid-testing device, I was about to do just that.
Having recently been for a flu jab at Boots, the process was quite similar. First, I was ushered into a private room of the flagship Oxford Street store.
Business editor Ruth Sunderland (pictured) is the first reporter to see the chain’s 12-minute Covid-testing device. She took the PCR one that is widely used in the NHS
The female staff member carrying out my test was clad in PPE, with a mask, apron and face visor, and the environment was spotless. I was here to try out the testing service that will be on offer from Boots: I took the PCR one that is widely used in the NHS and saw for myself the new 12-minute wonder machine.
I was here to try out the testing service that will be on offer from Boots: I took the PCR one that is widely used in the NHS and saw for myself the new 12-minute wonder machine, writes RUTH SUNDERLAND
She took swabs from the back of my throat and my nostrils for the PCR test, a process that was mildly uncomfortable but not painful. My details were noted down for the results to be sent out to me by email in 48 hours. As for the new 12-minute test, the machine was far more compact than I had imagined: barely larger than a card reader.
Taking a nasal swab, prepping the sample and inserting it into the machine takes around a minute. The operator puts your details in on the screen, rather like using a smart phone, then opens a little door at the front of the device and inserts a test strip. The machine heats up the strip, and when it has cooked enough, prompts the tester to apply the sample from the swab.
When it is completed, the result shows on the screen. Voila! Is it worth £120? Well, that’s a lot of money in anyone’s book. But if it reassured me it was safe to visit my parents 350 miles away, who I haven’t seen for several months, I would certainly be prepared to pay. And if I were going on a big trip overseas, I might take the Boots option.
If I were an employer, I might think it a good idea to test my staff before bringing them back into a Covid-safe office environment.
Our experience with Covid-19 testing has so far has been littered with disappointments. But if affordable mass testing really does become available on the high street, then it could be a genuine leap forward, helping us to get back to work, travel and socialising with much less fear.