By Kristy Dorsey

Scotland’s Omega Diagnostics will receive up to £374 million to manufacture rapid Covid-19 tests on behalf of the UK Government.

As a result of the contract with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Omega will also get government assistance to secure specialist machinery required to dramatically increase capacity at its headquarters in Alva. Headcount across the company, which has a second facility in Cambridgeshire, is expected to surpass 250 by the end of next month, up from 190 in January.

Omega emphasised that the £374m figure represented a “maximum of the potential value of the contract”, and that orders could be lower.

READ MORE: Omega signs first customer for its new Covid-19 laboratory testing service

“Although the disclosed contract value for our agreement with the UK Government is only an estimate of what the total value could be worth, it is very encouraging, and is an indication of the substantial impact on Omega’s future performance that such a level of utilisation of our lateral flow test production capacity might have,” chief executive Colin King said.

Omega and Global Access Diagnostics of Thurleigh will each manufacture up to 200 million of the antigen tests, which determine if a person is currently infected, as part of the government’s national testing strategy. Both are expected to have capacity to produce two million tests per week by the end of May.

READ MORE: New data boost for Omega's Covid testing consortium

With numerous lateral flow tests having been developed, the government has yet to decide which it will choose for its national testing strategy. Among those undergoing performance evaluations is that from Bedfordshire-based Mologic, with whom Omega is already partnered in a separate manufacturing agreement.

If the Mologic test is selected, Omega will produce it both for the government and for Mologic, which will sell the kit under CE mark and its own branding. Shares in Omega closed down 5.5p yesterday at 93p.