Biological Agents eBulletin: April 2020

Having trouble viewing this email? View the content as a web page.

HSE Header logo small

Biological agents eBulletin

COVID-19: safe handling and processing for samples in laboratories

In collaboration with Public Health England, HSE have advised on the laboratory guidance for the safe handling and processing of samples in laboratories - COVID-19: safe handling and processing for samples in laboratories.


The guidance aims to minimise risks for laboratory staff handling specimens from patients with suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19.


While the guidance relates to laboratory procedures carried out in clinical diagnostic laboratories it also provides a framework for other laboratories undertaking diagnostic testing for COVID-19.  The guidance does not cover virus isolation, propagation, research work, or work involving animals infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Hazard Group Categorisation of SARS-CoV-2

The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) met in early 2020 to discuss the proposed Hazard Group (HG) for SARS-CoV-2. Based on the current scientific information, ACDP agreed a provisional classification for SARS-CoV-2 as a HG3 pathogen.

A risk-based approach to sample processing

Due to the exceptional circumstances posed by SARS-CoV-2 and the potential impact on the diagnostic sector, a risk-based proportionate approach has been agreed with ACDP and HSE where certain laboratory activities involving diagnostic testing of COVID-19 samples can be undertaken within a Microbiological Safety Cabinet at Containment Level 2.


More detailed information can be found in section 5.2 of the COVID-19: safe handling and processing for samples in laboratories guidance.

Work at Containment Level 3

All research or deliberate work involving the propagation and, or culturing of SARS-CoV-2 should be carried out at Containment Level 3.

Get latest news and updates from HSE across a range of industries and topics by subscribing to our eBulletins here.

GovUK footer logo