A lab blunder that saw tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases reported as negative may have led to 20 deaths. New estimates from the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) suggest people died after an error at a facility in Wolverhampton. The error meant that 39,000 people were not told to isolate when they should have, according to the organisation.
Most of these cases were recorded in the south of England.
UKHSA officials have estimated that the failure to notify positive cases led to another 55,000 cases in the area between September 2 and October 12 2021.
Under their calculations, each positive individual would have gone on to infect another two on average.
And this would have led to approximately 680 additional hospital admissions “that may not otherwise have occurred”.
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The “most affected areas” would have seen “just over 20 additional deaths”.
Richard Gleave, UKHSA director and lead investigator, said the organisation “looked carefully at the arrangements in place for overseeing contracts of private labs providing surge testing during this time”.
Their investigation, he added, concluded that “staff errors” within Wolverhampton’s Immensa Health Clinic Ltd laboratory were the “immediate cause of the incorrect reporting of Covid-19 PCR test results in September and October 2021”.
Mr Gleave added: “It is our view that there was no single action that NHS Test and Trace could have taken differently to prevent this error arising in the private laboratory.”
“However, our report sets out clear recommendations to both reduce the risk of incidents like this happening again and ensure that concerns are addressed and investigated rapidly.”
Jenny Harries, UKHSA chief executive, said the report would allow the organisation to spot future issues sooner.
She said: “These ongoing improvements will enhance our ability to spot problems sooner where they do arise.
“We are particularly keen to further improve how we work with local partners and directors of public health as rapid incidents like this unfold.”
The latest Government data shows that, while cases haven’t risen significantly, Government testing is down.
Over the last week, officials have conducted a total of 278,597 tests.
The number is down approximately 9.9 percent on the previous week, meaning 30,544 fewer tests overall.
A total of 19,386 people have tested positive over the last week, and 433 have died.