Government admits sending 50,000 coronavirus swabs to the US following ‘operational issues’
The Government has failed to hit its testing target for the seventh day in a row (PA)
The Government has confirmed that around 50,000 coronavirus tests were flown to the US for analysis last week.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, the patient samples were flown on a chartered flight from Stansted Airport to be processed in a US university laboratory.
It comes as ministers struggle to reach the target of 100,000 tests a day, having fallen short of the goal every day over the past week.
On Thursday, the Government admitted there had been issues in a test centre in Northern Ireland, but did not disclose plans to fly tests overseas.
A Department of Health spokesperson insisted that “all results will be returned to patients as quickly as possible" and that results would be validated in the UK.
They told the Sunday Telegraph: "Delays in the system this week arose as a result of operational issues in our lab network.
"We have worked to resolve these issues and capacity is rapidly being restored.
"It is not surprising when a system is brand new that there will be some teething problems in the first weeks of operation.
"It is important not to draw too many conclusions from a few days’ worth of data.
"Over one million people have now been tested in the UK and the vast majority report no issues with the process."
The Government has faced criticism over its approach to testing after it was revealed it revised its method of counting tests days before it managed to hit its target.
Health Service Journal reported last month that home testing kits dispatched by post had been included in the daily tally of tests, even if recipients had not yet returned their sample to a laboratory.
But Health Secretary said the report’s claims were “not something I recognise” as he announced that 122,347 tests for Covid-19 had been carried out in the 24 hours up to 9 am on May 1.
The 100,000 daily test target has now been missed for the seventh day in a row, with 96,878 tests delivered in the 24 hours up to 9 am on Friday, down from 97,029 the day before.
Earlier this week, Boris Johnson told the Commons that he hoped to reach 200,000 tests for coronavirus a day by the end of May.
Government sources later clarified that this target was for testing capacity, rather than individual tests conducted.
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