The Omicron variant is creating another season of Christmas chaos and a country-wide shortage of PCR testing has once again revealed shortcomings in the Government’s Covid-19 response.
Amid this, our work to address the failings at the Immensa lab in Wolverhampton is more important than ever. An estimated 43,000 people with Covid-19 were mistakenly given negative PCR results by the lab. They thought they were in the clear, but were actually positive for Covid-19. This contributed to soaring rates of infection across the South West and Wales.
Amber Marshall told the BBC that she believes her grandmother Pam died in October as a result of Immensa’s errors, having caught Covid-19 from a member of staff at Stinchcombe Manor Care Home. The staff member had been given a false negative result and thought it was safe for her to go to work.
Without a proper account of what happened, how can people trust the system won’t fail to protect them and their families and friends again?
We posed a series of questions to the Government, to try and get justice for the families involved and assurances that the situation is now under control, but their responses were vague and wholly inadequate.
We’ve now filed Judicial Review proceedings to ensure the Government reckons with the multiple failures in their oversight of the Immensa lab.
We believe their failure to set up and enforce a proper system to monitor and supervise the accuracy of PCR testing at private labs like Immensa breaches both their duty to protect life under the NHS Act 2006 and the human rights of the thousands of people affected.
It took the Government almost a month to identify the issue and to stop sending PCR tests there. And they didn’t even announce what had happened or start contacting affected individuals until three days after that.
It’s hard to say just how much further the virus spread in that time, but the effects of this mismanagement are potentially huge. As far as we know the Government hasn’t actually investigated or confirmed the true number. Professor Deepti Gurdasani, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at Queen Mary University, estimates that the false negatives may have caused up to 200,000 further Covid-19 infections, and more than 1,000 avoidable deaths.
Many of the people given false negative PCR results have been left deeply distressed. One woman told us that, without a positive PCR result, she missed out on support that she’d otherwise have been entitled to: “I couldn’t believe it when I got the message from Test and Trace. I was so angry. I am 71 years old, and I was completely on my own. I could have died in my flat and no one would have known.”
We’re asking the Court to compel the Government to put in place proper safety checks at private labs to prevent this ever happening again and to acknowledge that people’s human rights were breached. We will keep you updated.
Good Law Project only exists thanks to donations from people across the UK. If you’re in a position to support our work, you can do so here.