Covid-19: ‘Proportion’ of 43,000 people given incorrect PCR results from Bristol

Bristol’s public health director Christina Gray outside Bristol City HallBristol’s public health director Christina Gray outside Bristol City Hall
Bristol’s public health director Christina Gray outside Bristol City Hall | LDRS
The Covid PCR testing laboratory in Wolverhampton which provided the incorrect results is being investigated

The “true picture” of Covid has emerged in Bristol in the wake of the PCR test result scandal, according to the city’s public health boss.

A private Covid PCR testing laboratory in Wolverhampton is being investigated after it provided incorrect results to up to 43,000 people, mostly from the South West.

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Bristol’s public health director Christina Gray told city health leaders yesterday (October 20) that a “proportion” of those who received a falsely positive PCR test result in the past few weeks were from Bristol.

This gave them – and health authorities – the false impression they were Covid-free, so they continued to mix in the community instead of self-isolating.

That allowed the virus to spread and at the same time kept official coronavirus figures artificially low.

Ms Gray said everyone who received a false positive PCR test result should have been contacted directly by NHS Test and Trace by now.

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And official figures have bounced back and the “true picture” of Covid has emerged, she told members of Bristol’s health and wellbeing board.

Ms Gray cited a rate of 436 cases per 100,000 people in Bristol, the latest figures she had to hand as of Wednesday afternoon.

At that stage, the rate was equivalent to the England average, but below the average for the South West, and put Bristol at 77th among 149 local authorities.

“Our rates dropped quite steeply over the last couple of weeks and that was partly due to these negative PCR results,” Ms Gray said.

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“What we’re now seeing in our reported rates is what’s happening in the rest of the country, the true picture of that, and a reset of our tests coming back in.

“What this means is the virus continues to circulate widely in our communities. It has not gone away.

“The highest rates at the moment are in younger age groups, so in school-aged children.”

Ms Gray urged residents to continue or step up the precautions they were taking to protect themselves and others from infection, including mask-wearing, social distancing and ventilating indoor spaces.

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Vaccination remains the best defence, she added, so efforts are continuing to encourage adults as well as children aged 12 to 15 to have both jabs.

The booster programme for vulnerable residents and those older than 50 is also being rolled out.

“It does feel quite soon after we had the first vaccination, but immunity will already be waning,” Ms Gray said.

Up to 43,000 people who took a PCR test between September 8 and October 12 received an incorrect result from the Immensa Health laboratory in Wolverhampton.

The lab was suspended on October 15 and is undergoing a full investigation by the new UK Health Security Agency.

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