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Case update 22 December 2020

Are they trying to rewrite history?

So much, so very much, is wrong with the Government’s decision to contract with Abingdon Health.

As we understand matters, Government gave, without competition, substantial public contracts to develop Covid-19 antibody tests to a company which had no tests, ignoring established operators. We believe these contracts were worth £85m but it’s proving hard to pin Government down. Government took a cut of the revenues from the tests, which didn’t do what they were supposed to, and Government has – there’s no polite way to put this – lied about what it did.

The detail of those allegations is contained in our detailed grounds and my witness statement. They make for startling reading – and I encourage you to read them. But we want to focus here on what looks to me like Government’s stark attempt to rewrite history.

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The Government’s National Testing Strategy has five “pillars”. Pillar 3 is described as “Mass-antibody testing to help determine if people have immunity to coronavirus.” And Pillar 4 is “Surveillance testing to learn more about the disease and help develop new tests and treatments.” 

On 8 April 2020 Government put out a Press Release which stated:

A business consortium, UK Rapid Test Consortium (UK-RTC), including Oxford University, Abingdon Health, BBI Solutions and CIGA Healthcare has launched, in order to design and develop a new antibody test to determine whether people have developed immunity after contracting the virus.

Government then issued two “contract award notices” announcing spending with Abingdon. The first, giving a figure of £10.3m, was in respect of an award of 2 June 2020 and said:

Provision of components and materials for lateral flow test kits for Covid-19 for use as part of the UK Covid-19 Testing strategy in support of Pillar 3 – antibody testing.

The second, on 14 August, giving a figure of £75m, you can see here and it says:

Provision of lateral flow test kits for COVID-19 for use as part of the UK Covid-19 Testing strategy in support of Pillar 3 – antibody testing.

However, a Government press release of 6 October announcing the purchase of 1 million tests from Abingdon said:

British-made antibody testing kits will support nationwide surveillance studies to track the spread of COVID-19 in the population.

Which is pillar 4. The reasons for that after the event switcheroo are likely to be that the test was not as accurate as key Government advisors had previously indicated, a fact that was both anticipated, and which Government had sought to suppress.

But here’s the bad bit.

On 12 November 2020, Abingdon Health issued a press release which contained a statement from the Department for Health in the following terms:

This report shows these tests are approved for use in surveillance studies, which is what they were purchased for.”

They were never intended for, and have never been issued for widespread public use and it is misleading and unnecessarily inflammatory to purposefully ignore this fact in the report.

It might be convenient to try and rewrite history. It might suit both Abingdon and Government to pretend that the tests purchased were not antibody tests under Pillar 3. It might spare both sides’ embarrassment. It might be convenient – but the facts show it isn’t true.

As I say, please read our detailed grounds and my witness statement. This is by no means the only extraordinary feature of the Abingdon Health story. 

You can support our attempts to expose what really happened here.

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