Socialist Worker

Tory testing catastrophe pushes virus to spread

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2722

The world beating testing scheme is anything but

The 'world beating' testing scheme is anything but (Pic: Raimond Spekking/Wikimedia Commons)


Thousands of used coronavirus tests are being thrown away because there isn’t the capacity to analyse them. The shocking news means that many people who have taken a test will never get a result. 

It’s an indictment of the Tories’ handling of the crisis and shows they have utterly lost control of the pandemic. 

Leaked documents showed that Britain is sending swabs to Italy and Germany to be tested, according to the Sunday Times newspaper. 

The Department of Health report marked “Official: sensitive” shows there is a backlog of 185,000 tests that need analysing.  

But tests must be analysed quickly otherwise any virus they have picked up will die, giving a false negative result.  

Private firm Randox threw away 12,401 used swabs in a single day on 2 September. The firm has “voided” over 35,000 used tests since the start of August.  

One source claimed that thousands of used tests analysed in Germany could be voided after being ­transported at the wrong temperature. 

The company confirmed that some tests were voided due to “time expired”.  

Capacity

The leaked report also showed that most labs in Britain are ­working under their capacity because of “chaos” in supply chains.  

The Tories claim the system has the ability to carry out 375,000 tests a day. But at the start of September, just 62,000 tests were being carried out daily.  

Many people can’t get tests—or are advised to travel hundreds of miles to a testing centre.  

Bolton currently has the highest infection rate in Britain. Yet there were no tests available on the government’s online booking system between Thursday and Saturday.  

Disgracefully, the government tried to blame ordinary people. The Department of Health complained, “We are seeing a significant demand, including from people who do not have symptoms and are not ­otherwise eligible.”  

Despite the Tories’ rationing of tests, positive cases are still rising sharply. Last weekend saw the ­biggest Saturday increase for four months, with a further 3,497 positive cases.  

The government’s latest R value, which estimates how many people someone with the virus will infect, is between 1 and 1.2.  

Any value over 1 means the virus will spread rapidly. A separate study by researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) estimated that R is 1.7 across Britain.  

And officials say the rise in cases is not simply a reflection of more tests being carried out. Professor Paul Elliot from ICL said, “What we are seeing is evidence of an epidemic and not a result of increased testing capacity.”  

Birmingham was one of the latest cities to be put under local lockdown measures last week. 

Over seven million people are now under local lockdowns. And more areas were added to Public Health England’s “watchlist” of places of concern, including Sheffield, Sunderland and Merseyside.  

The pandemic has shown how a system based on making profit for a few puts our lives at risk.


Vaccine likely to take years

There will be no global vaccine for coronavirus until the end of 2024, a pharmaceutical boss has warned.  

Adar Poonawalla from the Serum Institute of India told the Financial Times newspaper that firms aren’t increasing production quickly enough.  

“It’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet,” he said.  

It will be the poorest who are denied vaccines. 

Already, the US and countries in Europe have placed big pre-orders on vaccines.  

Britain has signed deals for six potential vaccines. The US is aiming to get 300 million doses of a vaccine by January.  

The charity Doctors Without Borders warned that such deals create “a dangerous trend of vaccine nationalism by richer nations”. 

This leaves fewer vaccines available to people in poorer countries.  


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