Around 43,000 people may have been wrongly given a negative COVID test result in the UK, authorities have announced.
Testing at a private lab in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands has been suspended, following an investigation launched after numerous PCR test results processed at the lab came back negative, despite people testing positive on lateral flow tests beforehand.
Lateral flow tests are simple and quick tests widely used by people with no symptoms to detect the presence of the virus. After a positive lateral flow test, people are advised to take a PCR test – which is sent off to a lab to be analysed – to confirm infection.
The Immensa Health Clinic lab in Wolverhampton is estimated to have provided 43,000 incorrect results between the 8th of September and the 12th of October, with people in the southwest of England the most affected.
Samples are now being directed to a new laboratory while investigations take place, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
“This is an isolated incident attributed to one laboratory but all samples are now being redirected to other laboratories,” a statement said. “The number of tests carried out at the Immensa laboratory are small in the context of the wider network and testing availability is unaffected around the country.
NHS Test and Trace will contact those who could still be infectious.
Dr Will Welfare, public health incident director at UKHSA, said: “We have recently seen a rising number of positive LFD [Lateral Flow Devices] results subsequently testing negative on PCR. 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.”
In the last seven days, 277,875 have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK according to government figures. This is up 32,060 (13 percent) from the previous week.