Chaos in the British Covid laboratories: Scientists ventilate government facilities

A senior scientist warned today that Covid testing "is dying" when he said he was "appalled by what I saw" in government testing labs.

Concerns were raised about the government's seven "lighthouse labs" and their ability to process results due to staff and equipment shortages.

Genome scientist and inventor Phil Robinson told The Times that the Lighthouse Labs were poorly managed, staff were no longer available and automated processes could not be set up before a second wave of infections.

He told the newspaper, “Every part of the process was bad. The other ridiculous problem is that 20 different types of tubes come into the lab. If you run a high throughput lab, it only makes sense to have one. I don't know why they didn't standardize.

Amid the chaos in the laboratories, the government's testing and tracing system is also "barely functional". Employees need up to two weeks to contact friends, relatives and work colleagues of those who tested positive for Covid-19.

Baroness Dido Harding, who runs the testing and traceability system, admitted yesterday that the demand for swabs is up to four times as high, but stated that the sudden spike as children returned to school and parents returned to the office despite repeated warnings had not been predicted.

Leeds and Lancashire are expected to see increased lockdowns in the coming days as delays mean that 90 percent of tests will be conducted outside of the 24-hour target.

Around 9.2 million Britons are living under tightened restrictions to contain outbreaks in their regions after the northeast was added to the growing list yesterday.

While the test fiasco rages on:

  • The CovidNudge test, which gives results in 90 minutes, is 94 percent accurate and is expected to be rolled out across the NHS by winter.
  • Nine out of ten hotspots recorded no new cases on September 15 and 16 as laboratories looked at the residue.
  • Test and trace agents take two weeks to contact friends, relatives, and contacts of those who tested positive.
  • Baroness Harding claimed that despite the return of schools, no one saw a sudden surge in test demand.
  • Matt Hancock said that the Today program's hospital admissions in the UK are doubling every eight days.
  • And it turns out that a new lockout of circuit breakers is planned, with which restrictions will be imposed nationwide for a short time in order to suppress the spread of the disease.

The percentage of people getting their Covid-19 test results within 24 hours has decreased across all types of tests, today's performance data showed

The percentage of people getting their Covid-19 test results within 24 hours has decreased across all types of tests, today's performance data showed

A scientist has warned of chaos in the government's coronavirus testing labs. Pictured is a volunteer processing samples in a laboratory in Alderley Park, Cheshire

A scientist has warned of chaos in the government's coronavirus testing labs. Pictured is a volunteer processing samples in a laboratory in Alderley Park, Cheshire

On Thursday the government announced that it would be opening two new "Lighthouse" testing laboratories in Newcastle and Bracknell.

The four labs accompanying new locations in Newport, Wales and Charnwood in the Midlands promise to increase capacity to run 500,000 tests per day by the end of October, DHSC said.

A new laboratory is also due to open near Loughborough later this month. However, the Newcastle and Bracknell facilities are not expected to be fully operational until February and March respectively.

NHS providers, who represent the NHS trust leaders, argued that the country is "a long way from where we need to be with testing".


The British test and trace system could be outsourced to a delivery giant like Amazon, it was reported yesterday evening.

Ministers reportedly plan to hand over the operation of the test service to a logistics company as the system struggles to cope with the increased demand for tests.

A tender will be launched next month for a contract to manage the entire end-to-end supply chain, The Daily Telegraph reported.

A government source said "delivery service experts" were needed. "At the moment, the management of NHS Test and Trace was in-house, but in winter we need experts in the field to move this forward," they said.

According to reports, Amazon, DHL and other large logistics companies are likely to be vying for the huge contract that will be the linchpin of the Minister of Health's promise to run 500,000 tests a day by the end of next month.

An informational notice issued by the Ministry of Health invites potential bidders to register their interest in the contract in order to coordinate the change in the offer of the test service.

It says: "In order to significantly increase the number of daily tests and make operations more efficient, we are looking for end-to-end management of all associated supply chain and logistics processes along the chain."

Plans have also been released for a lighthouse laboratory to do testing and a Covid-19 research center that could create 1,100 jobs in the north east of England.

The new facility would serve the region as well as North Cumbria and Yorkshire and would be the latest addition to the government's national test and trace program.

The Lighthouse Lab will be based in Gateshead and have a specialized innovation laboratory at the Helix site in Newcastle, focused on developing new approaches to coronavirus science.

The project will be a partnership between Newcastle City Council and the NHS Foundation Trust of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals, as well as public health teams, local universities and industry.

Vice Chairman Saffron Cordery said the trust leaders were "increasingly concerned" that testing failures could put pressure on NHS services and winter preparations due to the increasing absence of staff.

"Trust leaders are concerned that they don't know exactly why there are bottlenecks, how widespread they are or how long they will last," she added.

In response to the latest test and trace numbers, Justin Madders, Labour's shadow health minister, said it was "a major problem" that the performance of the test and trace system "continues to decline" and is "on the verge of collapse".

He added, “Perhaps the biggest problem is that people cannot be tested, which means that thousands of people do not get into the system at all. The ministers now need to get the tests under control and fix them. & # 39;

Dr. Mike Skinner, who volunteered to work in a lighthouse laboratory dealing with Covid-19 testing, said half of the work was sorting through the logistics for handling the samples.

The virology reader at Imperial College London told BBC Radio 4's Today program: “In the lab when the tests were upscaled in March, you really had to get all kinds of sample kits from many different manufacturers, there were a lot of difficulties with them.

"We had to invest half of our staff in troubleshooting barcode and leakage issues. We actually had to remove the swabs from the tubes so they wouldn't plaster some of the robots down the line."

He added, "It's really very much about logistics."

The test system manager, Baroness Dido Harding, has admitted that the system was not designed to handle the number of tests people are now asking for.

Nobody "expected" that the demand for checks would "really increase significantly," she said yesterday.

Baroness Harding's comments, despite the return of schools and the return of more people to work, sparked outrage when she told MPs that "none of the modeling" indicated that inquiries were rising so sharply.

The head of the NHS Test and Trace program accused the government's Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) of appearing to have made its predictions incorrectly as testing capacity had been built based on the panel's recommendations.

In the meantime, she found that the demand for Covid tests is currently up to four times the capacity of the system.

While some centers are stretched to the limit to deliver, others remain empty and a worker can even imagine falling asleep while working at a location in Heathrow.

There have been numerous reports from employees at abandoned walk-in test centers turning people away if they didn't have an appointment or showed no obvious coronavirus symptoms.

It's not exactly clear why the Heathrow site was so empty. However, it is a remote drive-in theater that has pre-arranged tests that involve dabbing through the car window.

Officials have blamed the limited capacity of Lighthouse Labs for slowing down other elements of the test system.

According to the UK's Lighthouse Labs Network, seven of the facilities in Milton Keynes, Cheshire, Glasgow, Cambridge, Antrim in Northern Ireland, Newport and Loughborough are currently operational.

The laboratories are ultimately controlled by the Department of Health and operated in the US with the help of pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as Cambridge, Glasgow and Dundee Universities and the scientific organizations UK Biocentre, Medicines Discovery Catapult and PerkinElmer.

Members of the public queue outside a coronavirus testing center in Edmonton, north London as people across the country say they are having trouble getting tests

Members of the public queue outside a coronavirus testing center in Edmonton, north London as people across the country say they are having trouble getting tests

Coronavirus testing centers were shown blank today despite hundreds of people saying they couldn't book an appointment online. Meanwhile, the company she runs Sodexo is recruiting more people, and officials will only say they are diverting capacity to hard-hit areas (Photo: A test site in Leeds).

Coronavirus testing centers were shown blank today despite hundreds of people saying they couldn't book an appointment online. Meanwhile, the company she runs Sodexo is recruiting more people, and officials will only say they are diverting capacity to hard-hit areas (Photo: A test site in Leeds).

Concerns were repeated by Nicola Sturgeon yesterday said she still had concerns about the time it would take to run coronavirus tests in UK government laboratories.

The First Minister spoke again of pressure on the testing system in England, which delayed the results.

Their comments came after a UK government minister insisted that coronavirus testing capacity in Scotland is "growing enormously".

No staff in the test center on the same day the new measures were announced

Dozens of drivers showed up at a test site and found there was no staff to wipe them down. On the day the Minister of Health announced stricter coronavirus measures for people in the northeast.

People who booked a test on Thursday at Doxford Park, an industrial park outside the city in Sunderland, were told by the media that they would not be tested because there were no officials there to inform them.

Some had been turned away by security guards approaching the center, who told them the computers had crashed and to try again later.

28-year-old truck mechanic Brad Cockburn was making a 100 mile round trip from Bedale, North Yorkshire, and found that there were no staff, not even a tent or other infrastructure, on the out-of-town industrial estate.

He said: "There is no organization, it is, as always, a low-piss performance."

Rob Reid, a 58-year-old cash and carry manager from Sunderland, booked for 3:45 pm and found there were no employees around.

He said: 'It annoys me. I am concerned about my health and it turns out the government is not so concerned when they take bookings on the NHS website and there is no one here to do it. & # 39;

Iain Stewart also said if decisions need to be made about who should have priority for testing in Scotland it would be for the Scottish Government.

Coronavirus tests in England are to be rationed as the Westminster government struggles to control rising demand.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there would be testing to prioritize people in acute clinical need and people in social care settings as he recognized the "operational challenges" in the system.

First Minister Ms. Sturgeon stressed Tuesday that there was "generally no problem" with running tests north of the border.

She said, however, that "restrictions" in the UK government's lighthouse laboratories caused the results to be delayed – an issue she raised in discussions with Mr Hancock and Dido Harding, head of the UK testing system.

Speaking at her briefing on Wednesday, the First Minister said: “While we continue to have concerns about the time it will take to conduct tests in the Lighthouse laboratories, there is currently no evidence that people in Scotland are having widespread difficulties to book an exam. & # 39;

She said the test backlog is now easing and her government "will be monitoring these issues very closely".

She added that she was considering whether the regular testing of nursing home staff currently being performed by the Lighthouse laboratory system could be taken over by the NHS in some areas.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The reason we looked at this is to see if we can unleash capacity within the UK system given the pressures it has been under."

Mr Stewart stressed that the UK government, which is responsible for most of the testing in Scotland, is responding to the problems.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, he said the government was "increasing the overall capacity" of the test system.

He insisted it was right that the UK government had prioritized access for testing in England to key workers and nursing homes.

When asked what should happen in Scotland, Stewart said, “That has to be determined by the Scottish government.

'What we are doing as the UK Government is tremendously increasing the availability of testing in Scotland.

“I'm glad the Scottish government is expanding its testing site, but most of the testing in Scotland is being done by the UK and we're expanding that. Another transit center will be opened in Glasgow in the next few days to ensure availability.

“At this point we should just thank the staff at the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow, who work around the clock. When they started they did about 40 tests a day, now they do tens of thousands. & # 39;

The new walk-in test center at the Arc Sport Center in Glasgow is due to open on Friday afternoon, the Scottish office said.

Ms. Sturgeon, who has already opened a walk-through center in St Andrews, said plans to open another four such centers over the next two weeks are on track to create 20 more walk-through centers across Scotland in the fall and winter & # 39 ;.

The 90-minute coronavirus test, which is 94% accurate: On-site Covid-19 screening, which provides results in less than two hours, could change the diagnosis this winter, experts say

An on-site Covid test that delivers a result in 90 minutes could change diagnoses in NHS hospitals this winter, experts say.

A study published last night found that the CovidNudge test – a machine the size of a shoebox – does not produce "false positive" results, meaning anyone who test positive is carrying the virus.

It has a “specificity” of 94 percent – meaning 6 percent of those given the all-clear actually have the virus – but this is far better than the 70 percent specificity rate seen with the standard Covid test has been.

The NHS has already ordered 5,000 machines and 5.8 million test cartridges at around £ 30 per test.

The CovidNudge is a machine the size of a shoebox and delivers results in 90 minutes

The CovidNudge is a machine the size of a shoebox and delivers results in 90 minutes

The NHS has already ordered 5,000 machines and 5.8 million test cartridges

The NHS has already ordered 5,000 machines and 5.8 million test cartridges

After all, the machines could be used in schools, theaters and even in private homes. They were used by the London Symphony Orchestra last month to give musicians permission to perform at the Proms.

So far, around 10,000 people have been tested on the NHS. A major roll-out is to take place in the coming weeks.

The device, developed by Imperial College London's spinout company DnaNudge, is particularly useful in hospitals as it can be used at a patient's bedside.

The short turnaround time enables doctors to make quick treatment decisions without waiting hours or days for laboratory results.

The process includes collecting nasal and throat swabs and placing them on a cartridge, which enters the machine – the so-called "NudgeBox" – for analysis.

The device then looks for traces of genetic material associated with the coronavirus.

Each machine can perform up to 15 tests on site every day. Imperial Professor Graham Cooke, whose review of the machine was published in the Lancet Microbe Journal, said, “This test is particularly useful in clinical situations when you are trying to make a quick decision on a patient.

“For example, we had a patient from last week who was newly diagnosed with Covid.

"We were able to confirm the diagnosis within two hours of arrival and use this as a basis to take remdesivir and dexamethasone (drugs used to treat severe Covid-19)."

The test will be used in eight London hospitals and is expected to be rolled out nationally.

Professor Cooke said there was no practical reason why it couldn't be used in someone's home, but manufacturing is geared towards healthcare use for now.

While the machine excels in speed, accuracy, and ease of use, it is not the answer to the government's current testing problems as each machine can only handle one test at a time.

"It's not the answer when you need millions of tests every day," said Professor Cooke.

The team is also modifying the device so that the test can assess other respiratory diseases at the same time.

Dr. Bob Klaber, Director of Strategy at Imperial College Healthcare's NHS Trust, said, “How we safely manage clinical pathways makes a huge difference, and we look forward to getting accurate results back to doctors and their patients as soon as possible out. & # 39;

Professor Chris Toumazou, Co-Founder of DnaNudge added, & # 39; The platform is well suited for testing in primary care and in the community with potential for use in non-healthcare facilities such as nursing homes, schools, transportation hubs, offices and to help bringing back the arts in theaters and venues. & # 39;

Dido Harding claims that the demand for tests is up to four times as high

Baroness Harding

Baroness Dido Harding (right) was grilled by MPs

The demand for Covid tests is up to four times the capacity of the system, Baroness Harding admitted today.

The Tory peer revealed the amazing discrepancy between the number of people who want tests and the ability to have them, as they claimed 27 percent had no symptoms.

Extraordinary. She said no one "expected" the "sizeable" surge in demand – although it was widely predicted, and accused SAGE of getting its estimates wrong.

Lady Harding has been brought before MPs to explain the mess that has led thousands to be scrutinized.

She told the Science Committee that she didn't have an exact number of how many people wanted tests. But she said phone calls and website visits indicated that there are "three to four times as many tests as we have available".

Lady Harding brazenly gave the money for the chaos, saying, "We have made our capacity plans based on SAGE modeling for what we should prepare for this fall."

Lady Harding confirmed the diagnostic test capacity is currently close to 243,000 a day – a figure the government hasn't released in over a week. Thousands of tests are being sent overseas for processing, she said.

She said the government is on track to increase capacity to 500,000 tests per day by the end of October – although that would cover all types of tests, not just whether people are currently suffering from coronavirus.

And she admitted that it won't be enough. "I'm sure we will need more as we go past the end of October," she said.

(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) Nachrichten (t) Coronavirus