MILAN (Reuters) – Italy has picked U.S. healthcare company Abbott Laboratories to supply 150,000 blood testing kits to screen for the new coronavirus as the country prepares to slowly lift a lockdown imposed in March.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s office said Abbott had come top of a merit list in a tender bid. It said it would vet the offer and proceed to drawing up a contract with Abbot if nothing arose to the contrary.

The decision comes as authorities around the world step up broad-based testing programmes to provide a clearer picture of the spread of the virus as they look to relax lockdown measures.

Several Italian regions have begun serological testing of their own while several large employers have also set up testing programmes for when staff are allowed to return to work.

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by David Clarke)