Amazon ‘approached to deliver Covid-19 test kits to frontline workers’

Amazon and other firms have reportedly been approached by the Government about delivering coronavirus test kits to frontline healthcare staff.

The reported move is designed to utilise the companies’ delivery experience to accelerate efforts in the UK.

Medical and social care workers would be first to receive them, with the idea of distributing kits to people at home being explored later, according to the Financial Times.

It comes as the Government faces mounting pressure to make testing of NHS staff a priority.

“There’s no doubt that using the logistics and delivery capacity of a company like Amazon could help the Government deliver these tests far more efficiently than through the NHS alone,” said Dr Natalie Banner, from Understanding Patient Data.

“However, there will be questions about how private companies will be able to use the information they collect on people through delivering this service.”

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said authorities were “massively increasing” testing on people who may currently have coronavirus, with daily testing going “from 5,000 a day, to 10,000 to 25,000 and then up at 250,000”.

Dr Peter Bannister, biomedical engineer and executive chairman at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), said: “The current situation requires adaptation of existing systems and technologies to rapidly address the immediate threat of Covid-19 as well as adapting to new priority health and care needs, such as increased social isolation and telemedicine.

“Leveraging an existing infrastructure such as Amazon’s supply chain is an agile response to a clear need for increased testing.

“While management of personal health information by a commercial organisation raises legitimate concerns, this should motivate a similarly rapid adaptation of any applicable data oversight in order to support the isolated population through these challenging times.”

Coronavirus-related deaths in the UK
Coronavirus-related deaths in the UK

Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, said: “This seems quite sensible if the kits are to be administered in the home.

“Amazon and similar companies have much more experience with the logistics of delivering at scale to private addresses, and collecting returns, than any organisation in the public sector.

“It takes a load off the public sector which it is not really equipped to carry and which it would be distracting and inefficient to replicate.

“The bigger issue is the quality of the tests and of the labs that would do the analysis.”

Amazon declined to comment on the report.