Complete Solutions for COVID-19 Swab
Sample Collection and Transport

Complete, compliant solutions

Rapid expansion of coronavirus testing in the UK is achieving the government target of capacity for 200,000 tests per day.

To enable this more than 150 drive through and mobile testing sites have been set up.

The majority of the tests being performed are PCR swab tests to identify who currently has the virus.

Teams across the public and private sectors and academia are working tirelessly to expand testing to all those who are symptomatic.

Essential to this testing strategy is the collection of quality samples and their safe delivery to the laboratories.

Swab Sample Collection

Availability of vast numbers of swabs is critical and to help meet capacity Public Health England (PHE) has issued COVID-19 guidance on the use of alternative swab types and transport media. Swabs with polystyrene shafts should be used, as swabs with wooden shafts may contain PCR inhibitors.

Laboratories can use alternatives to Viral Transport Medium (VTM) subject to local validation.

Where necessary, transport swabs with no transport medium (such as the SW1010 or SW1040 dry swabs) can also be used.

Packaging Requirements for COVID-19 Samples

Once the swab sample has been collected there are strict guidelines regarding how it should be packaged for transport to the laboratory.

PHE Guidance: COVID-19: laboratory investigations and sample requirements for diagnosis states “All samples for COVID-19 testing should be packaged and transported in accordance with Category B transportation regulations and labelled ‘Priority 10’. UN 3373 packaging must be used for sample transport."

PHE has numerous resources with instructions on the packaging requirements for COVID-19 specimens and examples of the types of primary, secondary and tertiary materials that must be used to provide the triple layer UN3373 compliant system.

PDF: PHE Packaging requirements for COVID-19 samples

VIDEO: PHE COVID-19: packaging diagnostic samples containing Hazard Group 3 (HG3) pathogens

Primary Sample Containment

Sample swabs should be contained within primary receptacles such as a transport tubes.

It must be watertight and leakproof and labelled appropriately. It must be wrapped in absorbent material, sufficient to absorb the full volume of liquid, in case of leakages.

PHE guidance for COVID-19 samples also requires that all primary cntainers should be in an additional zip lock bag.

Alpha Laboratories tubes are IATA 95kPa compliant for the storage and transport of a wide range of solid or liquid specimens.

Secondary Packaging Solutions

The secondary packaging encloses and protects the primary receptacle and its absorbent material. It must be watertight and leakproof. It may contain multiple primary receptacles if each one is wrapped individually.

SpeciSafe® Complete System


Pouch and Absorbent

SpeciSafe® is an all-in-one secondary packaging system that includes bonded absorbent material and built-in tube separation within a rigid clam-shell design.

Alternatively to ensure compliance swab tubes should be individually wrapped in absorbent  and then placed in a secondary pouch.

SH0900SS is useful for transporting short swab tubes. 

If the primary container is not 95kPa compliant, then the pouch must be pressure tested to this level and there are different gauges of pouch specific for Road Transport and Air Transport.

Using this format the outer packaging must be a rigid box.

Outer Packaging Solutions

The outer packaging protects the secondary packaging and its contents from physical damage while in transit.
Either the secondary or the outer packaging must be of rigid construction.

UN3373 Labelled Envelope
for Road Transport


Rigid Outer Boxes
for Air or Road Transport

When using SpeciSafe® for road transport it can just be placed in a suitably labelled envelope for an economical solution.

However, for air transport a rigid outer container is necessary.

Suitable for Road or Air transport with compliant primary and/or secondary containment.

Outer boxes are available in a range of sizes to accommodate multiple sample formats.

Complete Sample Transport Kits

For added convenience the complete sample transport kits, such as the popular RF95-LL1, contain everything you need for UN3373 compliant packaging of swab samples including absorbent, 95kPa pouch, security seal and the rigid outer box with regulatory markings.

We also provide additional specimen bags.

Medical Sample Carriers

Ideal for distributing multiple samples from collection sites to the laboratories, the MedDXTAINER UN3373 Medical Sample Carriers provide security and convenience for medical couriers and hospital transport.

The ABS plastic carrier can be stacked and locked, enabling three or four units to be carried together. The medical sample carrier is regulatory marked for transport of UN3373 Biological Substances, category B and should be used in conjunction with a secondary packaging.