The government will invest £29.3 million ($40.7 million) in new testing facilities run by Public Health England (PHE) at Porton Down, which will speed up testing of vaccines tailored for new COVID-19 variants.
We’ve backed UK science from the very start of this pandemic.
This multi-million pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility at Porton Down will enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants.https://t.co/HWeEdHQP90
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) May 5, 2021
This will add to the £19.7 million ($27.4 million) investment in the vaccine testing facility approved in September 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
The testing centre currently tests 700 blood samples every week. The extra funding will increase its capacity to 3,000 tests per week.
“The UK has proven itself to be a world-class force in the production of COVID-19 vaccines, with the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax, and Valneva vaccines all researched, developed, or manufactured on British soil,” said Hancock.
“We’ve backed UK science from the very start of this pandemic and this multi-million-pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility at Porton Down will enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants.”
He said the funding will help “protect the country over the coming months and years.”
Dr. Jenny Harries, chief executive at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “A new variant that can escape the current vaccines is the greatest risk of a third wave.”
“This new investment will help us stay one step ahead of the virus by doubling our capacity to test vaccine effectiveness against emerging variants,” she said.
The investment comes ahead of the expected lifting of the ban on foreign holidays for people in England from May 17 as part of the next easing of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus restrictions.
A risk-based traffic light system will be introduced, with different rules for returning travellers depending on which list their destination is on.
People arriving from a green location will not have to quarantine, while those returning from somewhere on the amber list must self-isolate for at least five days.
The red list requires a 10-night stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750 ($2,430) for solo travellers.
PA contributed to this report.