Tests flown to US after lab issues
Around 50,000 coronavirus test samples had to be sent from the UK to the US after “operational issues” in the lab network led to delays in the system.
The news came as the number of daily coronavirus tests fell below health secretary Matt Hancock’s 100,000 target for a seventh day in a row.
Following a report in a national newspaper, the Department of Health said sending swabs abroad was one of the contingencies to deal with so-called teething problems in a rapidlyexpanded testing system.
It is understood the test results will be validated back in the UK and communicated to patients “as quickly as possible”.
The department said work has been undertaken to resolve the issues and capacity is quickly being restored.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The expansion of the UK’S coronavirus testing network has involved setting up an entirely new ‘Lighthouse’ lab network to process test swabs.
“When problems arise, we have contingencies in place which include creating extra temporary capacity for our labs or sending swabs abroad to partner labs for completion. Of course, our partner labs must match our high standards.”
It was reported the samples were airlifted to the US in chartered flights from Stansted airport.
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Vantam said not much could be read into day-to-day variations.
Speaking at Saturday’s briefing, he said: “We are now really at a high plateau, in the region of 100,000 tests per day.
“There is some fluctuation, and quite frankly I expect there to be some fluctuation on a day-to-day basis.
“I don’t think we can read too much into day-to-day variations.”