Europe’s private sector laboratories have been largely eclipsed by the state-run services when it comes to testing for the coronavirus, according to private sector analysts HBI:

It quotes Synlab, which operates in Britain as well as across Europe: “Synlab says: “Testing for the Coronavirus is regulated by governments in most markets. That means that state-owned laboratories primarily test for the virus.”

HBI concludes that this situation is unlikely to change “unless countries in Europe move to a wider strategy of community-based testing.”

The private labs have faced particular problems. In France many of the 4,200 labs have complained that they can’t obtain the chemicals they need or the protective equipment, both of which appear to have been largely bought up by the government. To make matters more complex in both France and Germany patients need a doctor’s referral to access a private lab test.

The Spanish government has requisitioned the materials needed for testing, forcing Synlab to abandon its project there, while Sweden has outlawed private tests and independent labs have no mandate to test in Italy. In Poland and the UK most tests are being done by state hospitals, leaving “a small and dubious” private market of tests paid for out of pocket by individuals.

One example of this is the £120 rapid “COVID-19 home testing kit” being marketed by Randox, a company registered in Crumlin, Northern Ireland, which pays £100,000 a year to Tory MP and former minister Owen Patterson.

The firm claims on its website that it “has developed a revolutionary test for Coronavirus (COVID-19), the new strain of coronavirus. The only test in the world that can identify the lethal strain and differentiate between other non-lethal variants with the same symptoms.”

Buzzfeed which revealed this story, notes that the same basic test has been bought up and sold on at even more inflated prices by other private sector operators in Britain:

“Summerfield Healthcare — which runs private clinics in the West Midlands — is selling the mail-order test for £249. Another company, Qured, a service that usually allows people to book face-to-face GP appointments, provides the kit for £295. …

The Sunday Times published a story at the weekend about another company, Private Harley Street Clinic, that has been using Randox. The clinic has sold over 6,600 coronavirus test kits for £375 each to people who fear they have the illness, raking in millions, the newspaper claimed.”

So as 400,000 public spirited individuals volunteer to help out the NHS and social care, as thousands of retired NHS staff put themselves in harm’s way and joint front line staff in fighting to save lives and combat the virus, it’s perhaps reassuring that Britain’s private sector is sticking firmly to what it’s best at: screwing a profit from sickness.

 

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John Lister
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