Tens of thousands of Covid-19 tests voided after decision to send swabs to US backfires

Tens of thousands of Britons have had to be retested for coronavirus after a Whitehall decision to send swabs to a US laboratory backfired, The Telegraph can disclose.

Ministers admitted on Wednesday that in all 67,000 Covid-19 tests were sent to a lab in the US over 10 days at the beginning of last month, far in excess of the 50,000 previously admitted by officials.

The tests were sent to the US after capacity at a lab in Northern Ireland suddenly stopped processing samples.

Now it can be revealed that when they were returned to the UK more than four in 10 — nearly 30,000 — were ‘voided’ because of the way they had been processed. The cost to the taxpayer is likely to have run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Lord Bethell, the health minister, said that officials had been in touch with all the people affected and asked them to take new tests for coronavirus.

He told The Telegraph: “We worked hard to get complete tests for people under difficult circumstances.

“In many cases that worked and we are grateful to the team for their efforts. But in some cases it didn’t, and the correct judgement was made to void the tests.

“Everyone affected was offered a new test immediately and we worked quickly to restore full capacity in the UK.”

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