October 24, 2021

Covid: Contamination risk at test results lab revealed by hidden filming

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According to the lab, it followed all of the requisite rules and regulations.

BBC Panorama secretly filmed at one of the UK’s largest Covid research laboratories, uncovering poor behavior and protocol that may have resulted in test contamination and people getting incorrect results.

On Monday evening, the film was aired as part of a Panorama documentary.

Staff is caught on camera cutting corners and conducting samples in ways that may have tainted them, resulting in incorrect findings. There is also evidence of discarded samples and the facility being under pressure to meet its goals.

The lab, on the other hand, seems to have followed all applicable laws and regulations.

The undercover filming at the lab in Milton Keynes, which is owned by the not-for-profit group UK Biocentre, revealed that sample identification checks were hurried, swabs used to take Covid tests were left in their tubes while collected, posing a contamination risk, and the accuracy of the results deteriorated during the day.

Half of each testing plate is “garbage” by the end of the day, according to one quality management scientist at the facility, and two others claim they see hundreds of samples that they suspect are tainted.

Speaking to the BBC one expert described the findings as “crazy” and that there is “almost zero question” that the conduct and procedures seen in the footage would lead to contamination.

However UK Biocentre said that its “test positive rate” always closely follows the average across the country, and that therefore its results are robust and trustworthy. It has labelled the findings of the filming as “incomplete and selective” and that they operate “in line with industry best practice.”

The documentary is available to view on BBC iPlayer,  and will certainly raise questions about the accuracy of some case rates and test results across the country.


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