Boots said it has been identifying locations to open coronavirus testing facilities as the government scaled up testing for NHS workers.
The pharmacy chain added that it has started carrying out testing last week for NHS workers at their site in Beeston, Nottingham.
“Locations are being defined but will be spread across the UK; they will not however be in Boots stores, allowing our colleagues to focus on supporting our customers and patients,” said Seb James, Managing Director, Boots UK and Ireland.
“We will work with the NHS to recruit trained professionals – both Boots colleagues and from the wider community. I am sure there will be many trained healthcare clinicians and students, who will step forward to support our dedicated NHS colleagues.”
The government on Friday (27 March) has announced that hundreds of tests will be carried out in coming days and weeks for frontline NHS staff.
Britain has reported 19,522 confirmed cases of the disease and 1,228 deaths, after an increase of 209 fatalities as of 5 p.m. local time on Saturday compared with the previous day.
The government had previously faced criticism for insufficient testing for the coronavirus, especially among doctors, nurses and other frontline NHS staff.
Speaking at a daily news conference at Downing Street, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said a new testing regime was being put in place, with NHS staff first in line.
“This will be antigen testing, testing if people currently have the disease, so our health and social care workers can have security in the knowledge that they are safe to return to work if their test is negative,” Gove said.
“These tests will be trialled for people on the frontline starting immediately, with hundreds to take place by the end of the weekend, dramatically scaling up next week.”
The government said it was working with private firms Thermo Fisher Scientific, Amazon, Boots, Royal Mail and Randox, as well as with the independent health foundation the Wellcome Trust and top UK universities to set up the new programme.
Three new hub laboratories will be set up for the duration of the crisis. The number of tests will be scaled up every week, with the aim of expanding the tests to a wider range of workers beyond the NHS.
As things stand, most people are not being tested unless their symptoms are severe.
Gove was asked whether ministers would all be tested in light of the prime minister’s diagnosis, but he said they would not, unless they had symptoms.
“People are tested if they are symptomatic and those members of the central effort in helping to defeat the virus who do show symptoms are appropriately tested,” he said.
(With Reuters Inputs)