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Sat, 26 September 2020

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30,000 coronavirus tests had to be re-done after being sent to America for processing, Government admits

30,000 coronavirus tests had to be re-done after being sent to America for processing, Government admits

Thousands of people had to be retested for coronavirus after a problem with swabs (PA)

2 min read

The Government has admitted almost 30,000 people had to be retested for coronavirus after their swabs were voided on their return from America.

According to a report in The Telegraph, 67,000 samples were sent for processing overseas at the start of May following capacity issues at a lab in Northern Ireland.

It said they were airlifted to a university on the east coast of the United States in "multiple batches" over 10 days.

But on their return one bag contained accurate tests, while the second batch had a much higher than expected "void rate”.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed that 29,500 of those sent abroad had to be done again.

A spokesperson said: "We worked hard to get complete tests for people under difficult circumstances. In many cases that worked and we are grateful for the team for their efforts. 

“But in some cases it didn't, and the correct judgment was made to void the tests.

"Everyone affected was offered a new test immediately and we worked quickly to restore full capacity in the UK."

The Telegraph suggested part of the problem could relate to the different standards of equipment used in the US.

The DHSC spokeswoman said sending swabs overseas was one of the contingencies in place to deal with any problems arising from the nation's Lighthouse test processing network.

The 67,000 flown to the US laboratory - which has not been used for further surge capacity since - were sent after the privately-run Randox laboratory in Country Antrim suddenly stopped processing samples.

It comes after Downing Street confirmed that up to a third of all tests will not be included in Boris Johnson’s pledge to ensure people receive results within 24 hours of them being carried out.

The Prime Minister said by the end of the month all tests in hospitals, drive-through centres and mobile units would be processed within a day.

But the commitment will not cover postal tests and may not cover those sent to care homes.

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