A HEALTH board in Scotland has introduced a "drive-through" testing centre for Covid-19.

Some patients with an appointment are being tested for coronavirus in their cars at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

It was introduced as NHS Lothian steps up preparations for a possible spread of the virus.

NHS Lothian medical director Dr Tracey Gillies said: "This service is for patients who have been assessed by the specialist team so it is an appointment-only service.

"It is not a drop-in clinic and it is important to stress that patients cannot be seen without an appointment.

"The drive-through facility and the community testing teams allow us to test patients without them coming into healthcare facilities.

"Patients will be referred on by their GP or NHS 24 if they are at risk of the virus and meet the clinical criteria.

"They will then be referred on to our teams, who will decide whether they need to be tested in their own homes or if they are well enough and can use their own transport to drive to the Western General Hospital."

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The move follows the introduction of a similar testing service provided by Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust in Parsons Green, as part of efforts to help residents test "safely and quickly" and close to their home.

Patients who are given an appointment with NHS Lothian will be asked to drive directly to the testing area, without speaking to anyone else on the route.

They will be met by specially trained healthcare professionals in protective clothing, who will ask them to wind down the window of their car.

A throat swab will be taken and the patient will be given information on self-isolation and asked to return and remain at home. Results will usually be returned within 24 hours.

A total of 500 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out in Scotland but there are still no confirmed cases in the country.

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Catherine Calderwood, Scotland's chief medical officer, said: "Although all test results have come back negative so far, it is only a matter of time before there is a positive case in Scotland.

"Our priority is to ensure testing facilities are available across Scotland, so we have asked health boards to explore options for people in their area depending on their needs.

"Methods of testing will be different depending on factors like population and geography.

"Scotland is well-prepared to deal with coronavirus.

"We need the public to help contain spread by keeping themselves informed of the latest health and travel advice, and taking basic hygiene precautions such as hand-washing, not touching their face and covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and binning the tissue straight away."

The latest update comes as a 20th patient in the UK tested positive for coronavirus in the first transmission within the UK. It was not yet clear if the illness had been passed on from somebody who had recently travelled abroad.

Health officials have begun efforts to trace anyone who may have come into contact with the patient.

A man who had been a tourist on the Diamond Princess cruise ship has also been confirmed as the first Briton to die from the virus.