Amazon announces plan to develop COVID-19 test as it enters fight to defeat deadly virus

Testing is seen as vital for controlling the spread of the killer virus and for allowing lockdown measures to be eased. The company said that it was reassigning its research scientists and software engineers among others to work on its testing programme. It also confirmed that it had started to build its own laboratory and hoped to have a viable test soon.

In a blog post, the company wrote: “We’ve begun the work of building incremental testing capacity.

“A team of Amazonians with a variety of skills – from research scientists and program managers to procurement specialists and software engineers – have moved from their normal day jobs onto a dedicated team to work on this initiative.

“We have begun assembling the equipment we need to build our first lab and hope to start testing small numbers of our frontline employees soon.”

The company added that universal testing would keep people safe and allow the country to get the economy back on its feet.

It pointed out that the US needed “vastly more testing capacity than is currently available.”

The Trump administration has come in for heavy criticism for failing to implement a mass testing programme quickly enough.

Although the US President has often claimed that the country has done more testing for the virus on a per capita basis than any other, the reality is somewhat different.

Last week, the US coronavirus expert Mike Pence claimed that 1.2 million tests had been carried out, meaning that roughly 1 in every 273 people has received a test.

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That is a better testing per capita rate then the UK, which has tested about 1 in every 404 people.

However, the United States still lags well behind countries such as South Korea and Germany.

Seoul has tested approximately 1 in every 119, while Berlin has carried out tests on 1 in every 90.

Amazon intends to make its coronavirus test available to the wider public, in an effort to try and drive down the infection rates.

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The company explained: “If every person, including people with no symptoms, could be tested regularly, it would make a huge difference in how we are all fighting this virus.

“Those who test positive could be quarantined and cared for, and everyone who tests negative could re-enter the economy with confidence.”

Amazon stressed that although high-volume testing capacity was an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19, it was by no means the only one.

The company stressed the need for collective action from NGOs, companies and governments.

The news comes as Amazon faced a walkout by employees at its facility in Staten Island, New York.

Workers demanded that the company close its facilities after reports emerged of workers contracting the disease.

Amazon employees, who have been confined to quarantine, have also complained that they are struggling to get paid, despite being covered by the company’s sick leave policy.

One employee at a facility in Indiana told CNBC that they feel like there’s “lots of hoops that workers have to jump through” in order to get paid while they are in coronavirus quarantine.

The employee added: “We do not feel safe in our building anymore. And the pay we do get if we test positive is only 60 percent of our pay. Amazon is not taking care of us.”

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