European laboratories were hoping to be a key part of the solution to stop the ongoing spread of COVID-19 but as it stands the bulk of testing remains with the state. As many declare that they are equipped to handle large volumes, HBI looks at where the private sector has been able to deploy its testing capabilities across Europe.
As Synlab says: “Testing for the Coronavirus is regulated by governments in most markets. That means that state-owned laboratories primarily test for the virus.” This situation is unlikely to change unless countries in Europe move to a wider strategy of community-based testing.
To see Germany and France allowing independent labs to participate in testing is hardly surprising: both have large independent lab networks capable of handling large volumes. However, it’s not that straightforward. The French government has said that its 4,200 labs can test but many have claimed that they lack both the reagents and the protective equipment. In both cases, the patient needs to be referred by a doctor.
Even in markets where private OOP tests are being sold, like in the UK and in Poland, the market is negligible as the one clinic offering private tests in the UK has made around £750k from 2,000 tests and those appearing online in Poland lack the CE quality mark.
The large lab groups have so far steered clear of OOP testing except in Spain. Both Synlab and Echarvne pulled tests that cost between €150-€165 from the market after an apparent intervention from the public authorities to requisition the testing materials.
Where the private sector has been mandated to handle small volumes, often through specific contracts, we are seeing some of the the most interesting activity. For example, Unilabs has been working with local authorities in Portugal to create a ‘drive through’ test. Although this is unlikely to deliver high returns for the bottom line, it could lead to a shift in the way that the point-of-care testing market is designed.
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