internet giant Amazon begins building its own testing lab
April 10, 2020

Coronavirus: internet giant Amazon begins building its own testing lab

With an eye toward possibly testing all of its employees for coronavirus, shopping giant Amazon said Thursday it is building a testing lab.

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, the Seattle-based company said in a corporate blog post.

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

Amazon, like other employers with lots of people still coming into work, is scrambling to update its processes and procedures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus within its facilities.

Amazon employees begin assembling the equipment needed for its first coronavirus testing lab, with hopes to start testing workers soon. Photo: AFP
Amazon employees begin assembling the equipment needed for its first coronavirus testing lab, with hopes to start testing workers soon. Photo: AFP


This week, it began screening the temperature of each person arriving for work and distributing face masks. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, sporting a mask, had his temperature checked as he entered a fulfillment centre in a video the company shared Wednesday night on social media.

But with the asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus, even symptom screening will not be enough to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

A next step might be regular testing of all employees, including those showing no symptoms, Amazon said in announcing its testing lab. Regular testing on a global scale across all industries would both help keep people safe and help get the economy back up and running.

Amazon described its effort as building incremental testing capacity and acknowledged the uncertainty of the venture. We are not sure how far we will get in the relevant time frame, but we think it’s worth trying, and we stand ready to share anything we learn with others, the company said.

Last month, Amazon lent capabilities of its Amazon Care medical service – launched in February for Seattle-area employees to the Seattle Area Coronavirus Assessment Network, a surveillance program that provides residents with self-test kits.

READ MORE: British Airways cabin crew director died of coronavirus in the same intensive care unit where Boris Johnson was being treated.


Amazon has also put its cloud computing resources to work on several pandemic-related initiatives including an initial US$20 million in in-kind credits and technical support to research institutions using Amazon Web Services (AWS) for work toward diagnosis, treatment and vaccine development.

On Wednesday, the company rolled out a centralized repository of up-to-date and curated data sets including case tracking, hospital bed availability and academic research articles from organizations including Johns Hopkins, The New York Times and the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

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