The Scotsman

Tests flown to US after lab issues

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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.”

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