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Former boss of UK's Sainsbury's supermarket gets COVID testing job

LONDON (Reuters) - The former boss of British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is to take over as director of COVID-19 testing at England’s test-and-trace scheme.

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Mike Coupe, who stepped down as Sainsbury’s chief executive at the end of May, will replace Sarah-Jane Marsh, the Department for Health and Social Care said.

“We are pleased to confirm the appointment of Mike Coupe as our new Director of Testing who brings with him 35 years of experience in large-scale supply chains, logistics and digital transformation.”

Marsh will return to her role as CEO of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

Earlier this month she apologised to anyone who was unable to get a COVID-19 test, after reports that people in some areas were unable to access a testing facility. She blamed delays in laboratory processing.

Dido Harding, head of the test and trace service, said Coupe will carry out the role until Christmas, according to an internal email quoted by Health Service Journal, which first reported his appointment.

Coupe left Sainsbury’s just over a year after his attempt to take over rival Asda was blocked by Britain’s competition regulator. He has 35 years experience in the retail sector.

He is also remembered for one of the most notable corporate gaffes of recent times.

He made unwanted headlines around the world shortly after the Asda deal was announced in May 2018 when he was caught on camera singing “We’re in the Money”. He apologised, saying he had been trying to compose himself before a television interview.

Coupe’s appointment was criticised by Britain’s main opposition Labour Party.

“How about putting those trained in actual infectious disease control in charge of Test & Trace?” tweeted Labour’s health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth.

Reporting by James Davey and Paul Sandle; editing by Stephen Addison

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