Testing row: UK Government brands ‘testing capacity issue’ claim ‘categorically untrue’

A row is brewing between the UK and Scottish governments over claims a “testing capacity issue” had led to a delay in the processing of tests.

The Scottish Government said coronavirus cases across Scotland are expected to increase on Monday and Tuesday following a “testing capacity issue” with the UK Government Lighthouse Facility in Glasgow.

As a result, more than 60,000 tests from across the UK, including Scotland, will be rerouted this weekend to other testing sites in the UK and Northern Ireland, including tests from regional test centres.

However, the UK Government described the claim as “categorically untrue” and denied there is any capacity issue at the facility.

The Scottish Government said it was notified “late last week” of a “testing capacity” issue with the UK Government Lighthouse facility in Glasgow.

Officials have said they are “urgently” trying to establish with the UK Government what exactly is causing the delay in testing but said this is “mainly due to demand from outwith Scotland.”

However, a UK Government spokeswoman said the rerouting of tests to other laboratories is a “routine practice to ensure timely processing”.

In a statement released on Sunday, the Scottish Government said:  “It is important to note that the majority of these tests are still well within the 24 and 48 hour timeframe for results albeit we do expect to see an increase in the level of positives on Monday and Tuesday when the results are reported.

“We continue to reroute routine testing of care home staff through NHS Scotland testing facilities to ensure prompt turnaround times.”

The latest figures show that a total of 316 people across Scotland have received positive results since Saturday, representing 11.2% of newly tested individuals.

However, today’s testing data does not represent the total daily number of tests and cases due to the processing delay.

A total of 703 people are in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 and 62 of those are receiving treatment in intensive care.

No coronavirus-linked deaths have been registered in the last 24 hours but register offices are now generally closed at weekends.

Coronavirus in Scotland – track the spread in these charts and maps

A regional breakdown of the figures available shows there have been eight new cases in the Grampian area, taking the region’s total to 2,935.

In the Highlands, the total of positive cases has risen by seven. There have now been 874 confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic began.

There have been no recorded cases confirmed in the islands. The totals for Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles remain at 63, 26 and 62 respectively.

In a tweet, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Today’s figure for positive Covid cases should be treated with some caution due to a processing delay within the UK lab system. @scotgov is liaising with the UK government to understand and resolve this as quickly as possible. I will give update at daily briefing tomorrow.”

Saturday’s update from the Scottish Government revealed there has been 15 further coronavirus deaths recorded. 

The daily statistics also recorded a large rise in cases and people admitted to hospital with the virus, as well as an increase in the percentage of positive tests for Covid-19.

The total number of fatalities now stands at 2,609, though separate figures from the National Records of Scotland, which record all deaths where coronavirus is mentioned on the death certificate, suggest the true death toll is 4,301.

The update on Saturday showed 1,167 people have tested positive for the virus, representing 17.6% of newly-tested individuals, up from 16.9% on Friday.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “This claim is categorically untrue – there is no capacity issue at Glasgow’s lighthouse lab facility. The Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow is a highly efficient lab with the capacity to analyse tens of thousands of samples a day.

“Rerouting tests to other laboratories is a routine practice to ensure timely processing.

“There are now over 500 test sites and mobile testing units in operation across the UK. We are expanding testing capacity rapidly with new lighthouse laboratories as we drive towards our target capacity of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.”

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