The United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has suspended a private laboratory that processes PCR tests on the government’s behalf after tens of thousands of tests were confirmed as false negatives.
In an Oct. 15 press release on the UKHSA’s website, Immensa Health Clinic’s Wolverhampton lab was suspended after investigating reports that people who had tested positive on a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) were testing negative on PCR tests.
The NHS website describes LFDS as “for people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)” providing a “quick result using a device similar to a pregnancy test.”
The method involves conducting a self-swab of the nose or throat before testing the sample in a vial of provided solution. 30 minutes later, a device will display positive or negative.
Reuters says the discrepancy between the two testing methodologies was noted because “Government advice says PCR tests are more accurate than LFDs, and people can stop self-isolating if a positive LFD result is followed by a negative PCR test result.”
400,000 PCR test samples were processed through the lab with 43,000 false negatives, states the UKHSA. Erroneous tests are said to have occurred in samples examined between Sept. 8 and Oct. 12, mostly in Southwest England.
The agency said it believes the problem did not occur with the test materials or equipment themselves.
Reuters also noted, “Immensa Health Clinic, the private company who run the lab, was founded in May 2020, and has been awarded contracts worth 170 million pounds ($234 million) to process results of PCR tests.”
Immensa’s Chief Executive Officer, Andrea Riposati, also runs a second company Dante Labs, which Reuters says “is being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over allegations it has failed to deliver PCR test results on time or sometimes at all.”
The Guardian says Dante has also made major blunders in its operations in the United States, “In the US, Dante Labs admitted having sent five used DNA test kits to customers containing the saliva of other people.”
“One reported finding the tube where he was meant to deposit his spit was already filled with bubbly liquid and sealed up in a biohazard bag.”
In January, UK Tabloid The Sun published photos it obtained allegedly of workers inside Immensa’s Wolverhampton lab drinking, fighting, and playing football inside the facility while on duty.
Immensa was formed in May of 2020 and was awarded a 119 million pound contract, which did not go to tender, by the government only three months later, according to The Guardian. After the allegations published in The Sun, the Department of Health and Social Care nonetheless awarded the firm an additional 50 million pound contract.