COVID-19 testing development and capacity: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

When COVID-19 tests were initially developed in Scotland, and by whom, and what daily testing capacity was in March 2020. Could you also confirm what the current daily testing capacity is.


Initially, the NHS’s National Services Scotland (NSS) used tests developed in-house, based on protocols published by the World Health Organisation.

NSS then rolled out these tests to Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lothian and then later to Tayside.

The assays were rolled out at the same time as Public Health England (PHE) rolled out similar assays to their sites. NSS verified the assays with each other and the PHE sites to determine acceptable performance. These tests were used in the initial weeks before commercial platforms became available.

We don't hold figures for total capacity for March 2020 but since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, NHS lab capacity has been increased from two NHS labs (Glasgow and Edinburgh) with total capacity to do 350 tests a day, to a point today where there is lab testing capacity in all 14 health board areas. We do have figures for NHS capacity as at 6 April, it fluctuated on a daily basis but at that time was 1900 tests per day.

We now have weekday NHS lab capacity of over 10,000 tests a day and Scotland receives a UK population-based share of the Lighthouse Labs capacity, which is currently approximately 12,000 per day, providing overall normal weekday capacity of approximately 24,000. Testing capacity fluctuates on a daily basis.

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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