Sunday, November 28, 2021

Test and trace suspended after up to 43,000 PCR tests give false negatives

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There are reports thousand of PCR tests may have been wrong (Picture: Getty)

Tens of thousands of people may have been given false negative Covid test results after a lab failure.

NHS Test and Trace has suspended operations at the Immensa Health Clinic’s Lab in Wolverhampton, which processes PCR swabs.

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Health officials say 400,000 samples have been processed through the lab, mostly from the South West of England, but around 43,000 may have received false results from the lab between September 8 and October 12.

An urgent investigation is under way but it’s believed the problem is ‘localised’ to the lab and isn’t a wider problem with testing kits issued nationally.

The problem came to light when there was a spike in people testing positive on lateral flows but negative on PCRs.

Dr Will Welfare, Public Health Incident Director, UKHSA: ‘We have recently seen a rising number of positive LFD results subsequently testing negative on PCR.

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‘As a result of our investigation, we are working with NHS Test and Trace and the company to determine the laboratory technical issues which have led to inaccurate PCR results being issued to people.

‘We have immediately suspended testing at this laboratory while we continue the investigation.’

A problem with a PCR testing centre first identified at a PCR testing site in Berkshire could have affected ‘a number of sites nationally’.

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It is unclear if the Berkshire issue is linked to the Wolverhampton lab.

West Berkshire Council is asking anyone who got a test at Newbury Showground to go back for another over fears about inaccurate results.

The problem covers the period between the October 3 and October 12.

A passenger of a car receives a novel coronavirus test at a drive-in COVID-19 testing facility set up at the Chessington World of Adventures Resort, in Chessington, southwest of London, on October 20, 2020. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was criticised for acting too slowly earlier in the year, favours a strategy of localised lockdowns in England to avoid worsening the historic recession sparked by the outbreak. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A major investigation has been launched by health officials into the cause of the problem (Picture: AFP)

A statement from the council said: ‘Over the past month, some PCR tests completed at the Newbury Showground testing site, operated by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), have had results sent out that may have incorrectly shown as negative for Covid-19. 

‘After receiving reports from local residents in recent weeks that there were concerns about the accuracy of test results from the site, we passed these concerns onto the DHSC for further investigation. 

‘The DHSC has now confirmed that a number of sites nationally may have been affected by this issue, including the one at Newbury Showground’

It’s unclear how widespread the problem is at this stage. has contacted the UK Health Security Agency and Department for Heath and Social Care for more details.

The testing failure comes as the number of people testing positive for Covid hits its highest level for nearly three months.

Lateral flow test
The problem came to light when ill people received negative PCR results despite testing positive on lateral flows (Picture: Getty)

A total of 212,880 people tested positive at least once in the week to October 6, up 2% on the previous week, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

This is the highest number since the week to July 21, when the figure hit 309,476.

Covid-19 case rates are rising in all regions of England, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from the UK Health Security Agency.

The East Midlands has the highest rate, with 488.7 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to October 10, up from 450.0.

Yorkshire and the Humber has the second highest rate at 453.4, up from 409.0.

London has the lowest rate at 214.2, up from 204.6.

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