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Eurofins Scientific, a testing laboratory company based in Luxembourg, sent an email Monday morning informing government laboratories in the U.K. that delivery of key “probes and primers” for coronavirus tests would be delayed after traces of the coronavirus were found on the supplies, The Daily Telegraph reported.
It was not clear in the email how the tests became contaminated. Eurofins Scientific insisted other private coronavirus test suppliers have experienced similar problems.
Meanwhile, the British government has faced criticism for its slow rollout of coronavirus testing for the general public, when compared to other wealthier nations, including the United States, Germany and South Korea, the Telegraph reported.
At least 1,408 people have died in the U.K., which ranks sixth in the worldwide tally of coronavirus deaths. The U.K. is the eighth most-infected nation, recording at least 22,465 confirmed cases by Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The government initially decided to only test those hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms and National Health Service staff for COVID-19. Until two weeks ago, only hospitals run by Public Health England (PHE) were permitted to conduct coronavirus testing.
PHE and Downing Street clashed over the weekend over unclear national testing figures. PHE said the U.K. now has the capacity to test 10,000 people per day. From Friday to Saturday morning, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) reported less than 7,000 had undergone tests. PHE later said just above 9,000 people had been tested within the same time frame. Both conflicting figures fell below capacity, drawing ire from the prime minister's office, according to The Guardian.
Ministers are pushing to conduct 25,000 tests a day by mid-April – a figure still far beneath Germany’s 70,000 tested daily, The Guardian reported. Testing is crucial so those who test positive can receive proper treatment and be placed in isolation sooner, preventing the spread of infection.
Anthony Costello, a global health professor at University College London, told BBC Radio 4 that the UK ought to ramp up mobile testing sites, like those seen in Ireland, the United States and elsewhere, as well as supply every larger, private hospital in the country with coronavirus tests.
“We have 44 molecular virology labs in the U.K. If they were doing 400 tests a day we would be up to Germany levels of testing and that is perfectly feasible,” Costello told the BBC. “Public Health England (PHE) was slow and controlled and only allowed non-PHE labs to start testing two weeks ago, but that was only after the strategy shift to end community testing.”
“If you look at Korea, they have done 490,000 tests. Their death rate is three per million and they have suppressed the virus,” he continued. “I don’t see why we can’t get these 44 labs up and running, finding cases and testing.
“We must go to mass testing and when we remove the lockdown – all the Asian states it was six to eight weeks, even in Wuhan – then we will have a control mechanism which will enable us to wait, without socially distancing the whole country, for drugs or a vaccine for herd immunity.”