THOUSANDS of Brits with coronavirus are said to be taking tests that will never be analysed as labs battle with a backlog of 185,000 swabs.
Leaked documents suggest the Government’s “world beating” testing program is so overstretched it is even sending swabs to Italy and Germany to be checked.
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A Department of Health report marked “Official: sensitive,” seen by The Sunday Times also confirms that most labs in Britain are working under capacity, as they are hit by “chaos” in supply chains.
The government says it has capacity to carry out 375,000 tests a day.
But just 437,000 Brits were being tested for coronavirus per week at the start of the month — 62,000 a day.
Last week, people in Covid hotspots across the north of England battled to get tests and were told to travel hundreds of miles for an appointment.
Hundreds were forced to queue “for five hours” at a walk-in centre in Bury, Greater Manchester.
And in Bolton – which has the highest infection rate in Britain with more than 180 weekly cases per 100,000 people – no tests were available on the government’s online booking system between Thursday and Saturday.
It comes as the number of infections in Britain rose by 3,497 to 361,377 yesterday – the biggest Saturday increase for four months.
Leaked figures show that three-quarters of all tests miss government targets, taking longer than 24 hours from booking to result.
One in four take longer than 48 hours.
Documents also show that more tests are being thrown away due to human or technical error – known as voiding.
Randox, which won a £133m testing contract at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, threw away 12,401 used swabs in a single day on September 2.
And the company, which is based in Northern Ireland, has voided more than 35,000 used test kits since the start of August.
Internal reports state that tests are mostly voided because of “swab leaks” and “damaged tubes” during transit, or human error, such as people sending urine rather than saliva.
But officials have suggested labs are in fact freezing or throwing away tests after an arbitrary period.
A source last night told The Times that thousands of used tests being processed in Germany could be “voided” because they were transported from Britain at the wrong temperature.
Officials have also been told that processing tests from Britain is “not a priority” at foreign labs.
Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “People ill or with a sick child desperate for a test will be astonished that tests are piling up, left unprocessed, or even thrown away, because of errors in transportation and swabbing, while at the same time we are testing less than capacity.
“This really is ministerial incompetence at a whole new level.”
It comes after Boris Johnson rejected claims that the government’s testing program was on the brink of collapse.
He has also written to more than 50 top universities and medical schools to beg for their “urgent support” and man short-staffed government labs across the country, the Mail On Sunday reports.
The Department of Health said: “Test and trace is working and our capacity is the highest it has ever been, but we are seeing a significant demand, including from people who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible.”
It comes after the PM commissioned Operation Moonshot, which hopes to introduce 10 million daily tests by the spring, at a cost of up £100 billion.