Used coronavirus swab tests were handed out to residents in high-risk neighborhoods of Birmingham city. Despite eyewitness testimony, authorities claim there was no cross-contamination.
Birmingham City Council volunteers accidentally distributed some 25 kits to seven households in the student area of Selly Oak as part of its “drop-and-collect” service on Tuesday. Some 237 Covid-19 cases have currently been reported in Selly Oak and surrounding neighborhoods, ranking the area as one of the city’s worst coronavirus hotspots.
The council claimed the mistake was quickly realized and rectified before any potential cross-contamination could occur.
However, this version of events is disputed by Sophie Dunne, a recipient of one of the used kits who said that people had, in fact, opened and used the testing kits in question.
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Volunteers and military personnel distributed the kits on Tuesday, telling those who received them to complete the tests within 15 minutes after which they would be collected.
“The boxes…were sealed packages with test tubes and swabs inside which had already been snapped off, so obviously it had been used,” Dunne said, adding that she and several others ran down the street to notify the personnel distributing the tests of their error after noticing the issue. Dunne also claims they were told “not to put it on social media.”
Dunne also disputes the 25-kit figure claimed by the council, in an apparent damage-limitation exercise.
“I now know the council is saying apparently 25 tests were given out [but] from what we saw being collected in, [it] was a greater figure [or] number than that and people have used them and they have been opened which [the council] also said they’ve not.”
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Justin Varney, the city’s public health director, claimed the seal had been broken on only one of the 25 kits distributed, adding that there was no evidence that the test tube had been opened.
He claimed that follow-up visits were made on Wednesday to ensure no-one had been put at risk and he reaffirmed that the risk of contamination was “very, very low.”
There are around 100 military personnel assisting the city council with its Covid-19 testing, but they were not involved in the mixup.
Birmingham is currently under tier two of a three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions, with a reported 167.4 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, as the north of England endures a spike in cases. Liverpool was placed under tier three restrictions overnight.
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