A Scottish biotechnology firm will test hundreds of patient samples daily on behalf of the health service.

Censo Biotechnologies claims it will be the first firm north of the Border to provide direct Covid-19 testing support for the NHS.

It said NHS Scotland has accepted its offer to test a minimum of 15,000 samples per month for coronavirus.

The Edinburgh-based company has offered the use of their team and laboratory at Roslin, equipped with seven specialist machines for amplifying DNA.

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Chief executive officer Mike Hawthorne said: "As soon as mass testing was recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), we knew we could offer significant support to deliver this.

"While we are continuing our existing research with a skeletal staff every available resource is being directed to the Covid-19 effort."

Censo Bio has offered the use of their 25 strong workforce of scientists to support NHS Scotland labs where possible.

The firm says it is ready to test as soon as the data handling logistics have been devised by NHS Scotland.

It also has a presence in Cambridge where it has donated PPE to Addenbrooke's Hospital, the main Covid-19 testing site for the area.

Mr Hawthorne added: "We are also working on developing a potent anti-viral cell therapy that would work for any similar virus emerging in the future, something the WHO has warned will likely happen again.

"This therapy could potentially cure the infection in around 12 hours and while it won't be available in time for Covid-19 with enough funding and government input it is something that could be developed and stockpiled in readiness."

Cineworld chiefs have deferred their pay packets for the past year after the company was forced to shut its entire portfolio of 787 cinemas.

The world's second largest cinema operator said it is also suspending payment of its proposed dividend for the fourth quarter, as it looks to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

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It said the Government-mandated closure of cinemas has been "extremely challenging".

Cineworld said it has put on hold the payment of a 4.25 cents (3.4p) per share dividend payout for the final quarter of 2019 and upcoming 2020 quarterly dividends.

It came as the business confirmed its executive directors will defer salaries and bonuses, while non-executive directors will also defer fees.

Cineworld said it has held discussion with landlords, the film studios and major suppliers as it has sought to preserve cash.
The company added that it is also "curtailing all currently unnecessary capital expenditure".

The cinema business said it is also discussing its ongoing liquidity requirements with its lending banks.

In a statement, Cineworld said: "This has obviously been extremely challenging in many respects and our first priority has been the health and safety of our customers, employees and other stakeholders.

"This is a painful but necessary process as before the onslaught of the Covid-19 virus, we were excited and confident about the group's future prospects.

"With very few exceptions, the good relationships we have built up over the years have been supportive and understanding of our efforts and, together with us, our industry partners look forward to the time when we shall again be able to open our doors and provide entertainment and pleasure to our customers."

Car dealership business Inchcape has scrapped its dividend as part of measures to preserve cash after being hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.

The motor retailer said trading in a "large number" of its markets has been impacted by closures or "significantly lower business activity" as a result of the virus.

The UK-based firm said its global expansion is supporting its performance, with 14 markets still operating, including in Australia, Hong Kong and Ethiopia.

Inchcape said it has taken "swift action" to reduce its cost base and capital expenditure to mitigate the impact of the virus.

It said its board and senior management have opted to take a 20% cut in salary and fees during the second quarter in order to support the business.

The company has also scrapped its plan to payout a 17.9p final dividend as it looks to preserve more cash.

Inchcape said it is "comfortable" that it has sufficient financial resources to get through the crisis, following stress testing.
However, it said it is exploring other debt options to increase its liquidity and flexibility.

Inchcape stressed to investors that it has a "strong balance sheet", with the group having liquidity of around £600 million.

On Monday, industry figures revealed that the number of new cars sold in the UK in March fell by 44% compared with last year as the pandemic weighed on demand.

In a statement, Inchcape said: "The safety of our colleagues and customers is of paramount importance and we are taking all necessary precautions to safeguard them.

"Looking beyond the current environment, we believe Inchcape remains well placed given our strong relationships with equipment manufacture partners, focus on distribution, exposure to markets with a structural growth opportunity and supported by a strong balance sheet."

Shares in the company were up 6.7% at 465.4p in early trading.