Traces of the virus discovered in parts of the test kit are expected to ship to the UK from abroad in the coming days.
The British effort to increase mass testing of corona virus was hit hard after the main parts of the test kit ordered from abroad were found to be infected with corona virus, Telegraph revealed.
Laboratories across the UK on March 30 warned that delays were expected to occur after traces of the virus detected in parts that would otherwise have been delivered in the coming days.
Why is the testing capacity of the UK so far behind in many countries?
The news comes as ministers and public health leaders face rising questions about why British testing capacity lags far behind other major countries including the US and Korea.
To accelerate production, the government has mobilized private companies to help produce thousands of kits in the hope that mass testing will be available to the public within weeks.
One of the suppliers – the Eurofins company based in Luxembourg – sent an email on the morning of March 30 to government laboratories in the UK warning that the provision of important components is called the “head”. detector and bait ”has been infected with corona virus and will be delayed.
The company admits there was a “problem” and confirmed other private suppliers had the same problem.
Exactly how the infection occurred has not been clarified, and senior medical sources confirmed that the delay would not significantly affect the British test program.
Downing Street, meanwhile, accused the British Ministry of Public Health (PHE) of providing inaccurate information about the number of corona virus tests done after Conservative party politician Michael Gove – Duke of Lancaster, claimed that 10,000 tests were completed on March 29. In fact, only 8,278 tests were performed in the 24 hours to 9am on March 29.
A spokesman for the British Prime Minister on March 30 was forced to make it clear that Mr. Gove mentioned the available capacity, instead of the actual number of tests performed.
The correction came about 24 hours after Gove announced the government’s goal of 10,000 tests a day has been achieved, and ministers are speeding up reaching 25,000 tests by mid-April.
The confusion, however, came after official data released from the Ministry of Health and Social Care (DHSC) showed that fewer than 7,000 people had been tested, significantly lower than the claim. of Mr. Gove.
On the morning of March 30, Deputy Minister of Health Helen Whately made the information more vague when she told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “We have reached the capacity of 10,000 tests per day. The actual number tested in the day I think is about 7,000. “
Pushing things further, just a few minutes later, PHE published figures saying that between the morning of March 28 and 9am of March 29, a total of 9,114 tests were performed.
PHE also asserts that “the patient test capacity has reached 10,949 per day”, raising questions about whether medical services have not performed the maximum number of tests.
On the night of March 29, British government sources said the mistake occurred because PHE did not clarify to the ministers about the difference between the existing capacity and the actual number of tests completed.
The sources added that some people have been tested more than once, thus leading to discrepancies between the statistics. Government sources say the difference is partly due to the fact that hospitals do not know how many people need to be tested at the beginning of each day and retain enough capacity to ensure they don’t run out of test kits.
According to the Telegraph, British Health Minister Matt Hancock himself is said to also express frustration that the test may not be performed at full capacity.
On March 11, the UK announced that it had conducted a total of 25,000 tests and set a goal to reach 10,000 tests per day – a goal that has yet to be achieved. Ministers hope a new antibody test to detect whether a person has been infected with the virus before will be ready within a few weeks.
The reaction is too late
Food distribution company Ocado has ordered 100,000 sets of Covid-19 test kits for its staff but has promised to deliver them to NHS if requested.
The company spent £ 1.5 million ($ 1.87 million) on the test kit, with 40,000 kits shipped and 60,000 on the way. According to the Telegraph, celebrities in this country pay £ 375 (more than $ 460) for each individual test.
However, experts on March 30 questioned why Britain fell so far behind many other countries in mass testing of population. Professor Graham Medley – president of SPI-M, the Flu Pandemic Prevention Group on modeling and advising the government, said the country simply did not have enough “manpower and machinery” to strengthen its productivity, compared to other countries.
“That’s the difference between cooking and serving,” Medley explained to the Telegraph. “We may have wise minds, but we don’t have the machines or the number of people trained to strengthen this appropriately.”
“We are trying to do things that are beyond the capabilities of any single research laboratory. We need many expensive PCR machines and need maintenance. ”
“We need trained personnel to operate them …”
“Korea has warehouses full of test kits and machines, and lots of people are trained and ready to do it. When experiencing Sars and Mers, they knew they needed them, ”Professor Medley added.
“Germany also seems to be better prepared than us. It will be a very difficult political decision to spend money on things that may never be needed. ”
To strengthen its capacity, PHE has mobilized a volunteer army, including college students, to help with laboratories, according to a statement released on March 30. Some will be paid while many others offer free help.
When the epidemic broke out, Britain chose to use a single laboratory, a main PHE facility in Colindale, north London. In recent weeks, PHE authorities have enrolled 11 additional labs as well as NHS’s universities and hospitals.
Greg Clark, the former business minister who chaired the science selection committee of the House of Commons investigating the government’s response to Covid-19, questioned why Britain was so late. in bringing more laboratories and increasing production activity.
“Our strategy is to start with a lab then increase to 12. I don’t know why we act so slowly,” he said.
“It is unclear why we do not have the capacity to test, and why we seem to be in a worse position than other countries in this regard.”
Mr. Clark also questioned why PHE had only 290 people working in contact tracking activities, unlike countries like South Korea where patient tracking is a key part of the strategy. .
“That is very absurd. We need to know where this disease is going, ”he stressed.
A spokesman for Eurofins said: “In rare cases, delays in some orders can occur if based on the strict quality and environmental control procedures of Eurofins Genomics. , the manufacture of a product may not meet the quality or purity criteria set by Eurofins Genomics. ”
“We know that the contamination you are referring to has been observed by a number of bait and transducer manufacturers around the world after they created positive SARS-COV2 control measures. Initial problems can be easily solved by appropriate production and sanitation separation processes. ”
A PHE spokesperson said: “Covid-19 only started to appear at the beginning of the year and since then, PHE has rapidly developed, verified and provided accurate testing. PHE has expanded to 12 other test locations in the UK and has assisted NHS to begin testing with greater capacity in the laboratory ”.
“This is the fastest implementation of a new test for the PHE and NHS laboratories in recent history, including the 2009 swine flu pandemic.”
The Ministry of Health declined to comment, according to the Telegraph.