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Case update 11 November 2022

PCR Test Scandal Finally Published: 55,000 avoidable COVID infections

In September 2020 – and then again in August 2021 – Government handed huge sums of public money over to a company called Immensa to carry out Covid testing: first £119m and then a further £50m.

In September 2020 – and again in August 2021 – Government handed huge sums of public money over to a company called Immensa to carry out Covid testing: first £119m and then a further £50m.

Immensa won these contracts without going through the normal tendering process. Inevitably, it was a VIP. At first, Government insisted that it was fully accredited to carry out Covid tests – but it wasn’t. And it was awarded the first of these contracts just four months after it was set up.

In news that should surprise no one, things worked out badly. Badly for the public, who had to foot the bill. And badly for the friends and families of 43,000 people who were told by Immensa that they did not have Covid when in fact they did. They are, however, likely to have worked out well for Immensa’s shareholders. But we can’t be sure because it has delayed publication of its accounts. 

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On any view, the effects of this mismanagement are substantial. Professor Deepti Gurdasani, an epidemiologist at Queen Mary University, estimated that the false negatives may have caused up to 200,000 further Covid-19 infections, and more than 1,000 avoidable deaths.

Back in October last year, when this scandal broke, we brought proceedings against the Secretary of State for Health (then Sajid Javid). We believed his failure to monitor and supervise the accuracy of PCR testing at private labs like Immensa breached his duty to protect life and the human rights of those affected.

In that litigation we pushed for publication of an independent investigation into how this happened. Today the Government’s UK Health Security Agency has belatedly published that report on the investigation. The results are extraordinary…

As many as 39, 000 positive results were wrongly reported as negative in September and October 2021 by the Immensa laboratory. This means tens of thousands of infected people were unwittingly infecting others when they should have been isolating. The UKHSA’s estimates by the UKHSA are that this could have caused 55,000 additional infections in the South West, and appallingly, a number of unnecessary deaths. 

The report also refers to weaknesses in the design of the quality assurance and governance mechanisms in relation to testing services operated by NHSTT (National Health Test and Trace) and the processes for awarding contracts. 

We will review the report closely – with our lawyers – and reflect on what more we might accomplish by pursuing the case.

 


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