Covid cases surge in southwest England after lab testing fiasco

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Cases are rising in south-west England as thousands of people with Covid were falsely told they were negative, allowing the infection to spread uncontrollably within the region.

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An estimated 43,000 people nationwide are believed to have received false test results due to “technical issues” at a private laboratory in Wolverhampton, where operations have been suspended amid ongoing investigations.

Officials have since contacted affected individuals, mostly in the Southwest, to advise them to undergo another test. The UK’s Health Protection Agency said incorrect PCR results were given between 8 September and 12 October.


Many towns and communities in the region have begun reporting record-high daily new infections in recent days, according to government data. It comes as 223 new Covid deaths were reported on Tuesday – the highest figure since March.

As of Monday, local officials in the South West made up seven of the top eight local officials with the highest Covid rates in England.

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“We are starting to see the effect of the false negative scam in the numbers,” said Professor Kit Yates, a senior lecturer in mathematical biology at the University of Bath.

“Part of this may be due to people eventually being retested after receiving a false negative result, but it is quite possible that a large part of these increases are a result of the fact that people are unable to attend work or school. were encouraged to falsely believe they were not contagious, resulting in them infecting their friends and co-workers.”

Bath and North East Somerset have the highest local Covid rates in the country. Cases nearly tripled in seven days till October 13. Cheltenham is behind in second place; A total of 236 new infections were recorded across the city on Monday, bringing its seven-day average to 940 cases per 100,000.

In Somerset, the local council said the county’s high rates were due to false negative results that were delivered by a private laboratory. As a result, people who were wrongly told they were not infected did not isolate at home and continued to spread the virus, the council said.

“In recent weeks, we have seen an increase in Covid-19 cases with rates in educational settings now representing the majority of all Somerset cases; This is in line with what is being seen regionally,” said a spokesman for Somerset County Council.

“This situation really shows the importance and effectiveness of self-isolation for those who are symptomatic or with a positive PCR test result. The public health team continues to work closely with schools on an individual basis, implementing necessary containment measures in accordance with national policy.

Prof Yates said he had heard stories of people who believed they were negative after receiving PCR results. “Some of these people went to work when they became infected and a few days later their colleagues got infected,” he said.

“Although the link between the cases is not definitive, it seems likely that this was the route of transmission.”

UKHSA is now investigating Wolverhampton Lab, a private company owned by Immensa Health Clinic, first set up in May 2020 and later funded by the government for £120 million to provide testing services for the UK. The contract was awarded.

Guardian Contrary to assurances made by health officials, it was reported on Monday that the lab was not fully accredited for Covid testing.

It appears that authorities were first informed of the issue after people across England had received a negative PCR test result through a lateral flow device (LFD) returning a positive result.

Colin Angus, a senior research fellow at the University of Sheffield and a modeler of health disparities, cautioned against over-explaining the increase in cases in the Southwest now that the laboratory issue has been identified.


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