Amazon (AMZN.O) Front-line equipment in Britain is testing for different types of coronavirus and providing data to public health authorities, even in hotspots where a strain first discovered in India is spreading rapidly.
The retail giant opened COVID-19 testing labs in the UK and US last year to offer voluntary testing of the equipment and can now also test variants in Britain, where scientists have pioneered genome sequencing.
With the help of the rapid release of vaccines, Britain is about to reopen its economy after months of lockdown, but the delta variant first discovered in India has spread, even to areas where the Amazon lab and some supply centers are located.
Luke Meredith, director of Amazon’s diagnostic lab in Britain, said the company was open to offering the same service in the US and did not rule out that its testing program might be available to the British public in the future.
“It is very important to recognize the fact that strains can spread in different ways, have different responses to vaccines, and can have different effects on people’s health,” he told Reuters. This is a learning stage.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed 3.7 million people, forcing governments, businesses and society to rethink how people work, travel and socialize. Some preliminary studies show that the delta variant spreads more easily.
Amazon Experiences is available to about 30,000 frontline employees in Britain working in warehouses and logistics. The British lab has performed more than 900,000 tests since it opened in September, including from its facilities in Europe.
Meredith, who has worked for the World Health Organization and the University of Cambridge, said Public Health England was eager to receive additional data to help track the spread of variants.
When asked if Amazon would make testing facilities publicly available in Britain, where private tests can cost hundreds of pounds for international travel, Meredith said it was too early to say.
“I don’t think we can rule anything out at this point, this is a decision to make, but for now we just want to focus on our team,” he said.
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