Today revealed that a disgraced Covid laboratory falsely informed up to 43,000 people that they were not infected. It happened a week before it was expected.
The Immensa Health Clinic in Wolverhampton was given nearly £170million to analyse PCR swabs.
Last week, health chiefs revealed that there were ‘technical problems’ at the clinic. Workers were filmed playing football and wrestling during shifts. Tens of thousands were wrongly processed.
The UK Health Security Agency (which took over from the now-defunct PHE) stated that patients were given false positives during the five weeks between September 8th and October 12.
However, the agency announced last night that the problems at lab began six days earlier then originally thought. It was September 2.
MailOnline was informed by a spokesperson for UKHSA that the lab mishaps occurred within the scope of ongoing investigations.
However, it insists that the finding does no impact on the number coronavirus swab sample which were wrongly processed. According to health bosses, all those affected have been contacted.
The South West has already seen a record number of cases and they have more than doubled in just a week since the error was discovered.
There are concerns that the testing error may have occurred at the worst time possible, with daily cases approaching peak-second wave levels and the UK’s booster program struggling to keep up as the country heads into a harsh winter.
After an investigation that revealed it may have misunderstood PCR tests, Immensa Health Clinic in Wolverhampton was suspended. The lab (pictured) has been paid £120million by the taxpayer for its services
In January, Immensa Health Clinic employees in Wolverhampton were captured fighting (pictured). This was during the heights of the first wave and was done while the country was under strict lockdown.
Last week, NHS Test and Trace suspended testing operations at Immensa’s lab An investigation is currently underway to determine the reason it took over a month for the testing error to be discovered.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (HSA), there are no technical problems with the test kits and people should continue testing as normal.
Dr Jenny Harries is the head of HSA. She said last week that it was unclear what caused the error.
Test and Trace has advised everyone who may still be infected to get another test. Close contacts who are symptomatic should also be tested.
The UKHSA said the problems at the lab was an ‘isolated incident’ and the number of tests processed by the lab is ‘small in the context of the wider network and testing availability is unaffected around the country’.
Since the errors occurred, South West cases have risen.
A total of 35,629 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the region in the seven days to October 16 — the equivalent of 629.6 per 100,000 people. This is an increase from the 17,593 cases (or 310.9 in seven days prior).
According to the Office for National Statistics, 2.2% of people in the region are thought to have the virus in any given day during the period October 16 to 16, which is the highest infected date in the country.
MailOnline spoke with Professor Paul Hunter, an Epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia. He believed that the flawed test results were ‘having a significant impact’ on case rate and estimated that the error caused thousands of avoidable infections.
He estimated that upto 8,000 people could have contracted the disease from someone who received the wrong result. This is based on rough estimates of the number of people who isolate when they are unwell.
But he added: “It could be even more, there are still many key unanswered here.
Professor Hunter stated, “Clearly, any substantial amount of preventable false positives means that people who would normally have been self-isolating are not doing so.”
He said that the problems in the laboratory led to “enough preventable infected to be a concern but not enough to make a significant difference in the epidemic.”
It comes as ONS data today showed England’s Covid cases reached their highest level since mid-January with nearly one in 50 infected with the virus last week.
Around 977,900 people were infected in England on any given day in the week up to October 16.
Since the country began to recover after the worst days of the second wave at the beginning of the year, infections have declined in the past year.
Cases rose 9.88 per cent on last week’s figure of 890,000 — the fourth week in a row infections have increased.
Separate data from UKHSA today shows that the R-rate rose on last week and is now around 1.0 to1.2, up 0.9 to 1. This is the first time R has been above one since August.
Figures from the Department of Health — based on the Government’s official testing programme as opposed to the random swabbing of thousands of Brits — showed cases across the UK breached 50,000 for the first time in three months yesterday.
Medics warn that cases will continue to rise unless Britain accelerates its vaccine booster rollout. Only 4million of 8.7million eligible patients in England have had a booster, which includes only a third of residents of care homes and half the over-80s.
Doctors today warned that it is being held up because the NHS sends texts to elderly Britons who don’t know how to use their phones.
Boris Johnson issued a desperate plea yesterday for more Britons to get boosters for the virus to ‘fortify people’s defenses. He was concerned that rising cases could lead again to last-minute Christmas curbs.
Despite growing pressure from the public to return to its winter Plan B’ to bring back WFH guidance and masks, the Government has so far refused to do so despite increasing case numbers and doctors accusing them as being ‘wilfully negligent’.