Monday 23 March 2020 1:04 pm

Government ‘in talks with Amazon’ over coronavirus test delivery

The UK government is said to have approached companies including Amazon over delivering coronavirus testing kits to frontline health and social care workers.

Whitehall officials are in discussions with the firms about ramping up the availability of tests for healthcare staff as the spread of the virus picks up pace, the Financial Times reported, citing two public health officials.

Read more: Millions of coronavirus antibody tests expected to arrive in weeks

Businesses with established delivery infrastructure would initially be tasked with delivering the kits to workers, before the scheme was expanded to the general public.

The government has come under pressure to provide coronavirus testing to frontline health workers amid concerns they face a dilemma about whether to go into work or not if they are experiencing mild symptoms.

An online petition calling for priority testing for frontline NHS workers has racked up more than 1m signatures.

The World Health Organization has urged governments to test as widely as possible, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to extend testing in the UK.

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The number of tests has risen to roughly 6,000 per day. The government plans to increase this to 10,000 per day initially, with a goal of 25,000 within four weeks.

Officials have also pinned their hopes on a new antibody test, which would detect if someone has already had coronavirus.

Johnson has described the test as a “game changer” for the UK’s response to the health crisis, and millions are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

One option reportedly being discussed with Amazon would allow people to order both the regular and antibody tests online. They would then be picked up by the tech giant’s couriers and taken to a private diagnostic company.

Test results would be sent to Public Health England, a government agency and the person tested, according to the report.

In an open letter to staff posted over the weekend, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos warned that “things are going to get worse before they get better”.

Read more: Amazon workers told to work overtime to meet coronavirus demand

But he said the ecommerce firm was hiring for 100,000 new roles and raising wages for hourly workers.

Amazon declined to comment. The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.