Thousands of UK Amazon workers have received the wrong COVID-19 test results after being given inaccurate information by test and trace
It is understood that 3,853 UK Amazon staff members for the online retail giant received an erroneous result. Officials have said that they had tested negative for COVID-19 but received notifications to say that they had tested positive for coronavirus and asking them to self-isolate.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said that the issue had been resolved within a day but said that those working for the “world-beating” service that tracks down people who may have been infected with the coronavirus are saying that they are still dealing with the fallout from the problem.
One test-and-trace worker said: “The tests, as far I can tell were good, but what people were told about their results is wrong.”
This comes after rapid testing for COVID-19 could enable nightclubs and theatres in the UK to reopen, the Prime Minister has suggested. Boris Johnson has said that rapid testing using lateral flow COVID-19 tests could be used by “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year”.
The UK’s test-and-trace programme has been criticised since it first launched. The government’s programme costing £22bn came under increasing strain amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as it had to contact almost triple the number of coronavirus infected people.
It not clear how these testing errors occurred but separately some test-and-trace healthcare workers have expressed their increasing concerns about the use of the outsourced, inexperienced, call-centre staff to carry out the roles of clinically trained professionals.
The staff are often employed on minimum wage by telesales businesses contracted by Serco, which was drafted in to carry out detailed interviews with COVID-19 patients.
Amazon has put in place a workplace testing programme, using PCR testing that had previously been rolled out in the autumn of 2020. It has hired lab technicians and conducts tens of thousands of tests daily across hundreds of locations worldwide.
Amazon has said that all those who have received the error message from test and trace programme went home, on a precautionary basis. It later added that it investigated and updated them shortly afterwards in order to confirm that the message had been an error and that they were not required to self-isolate.
The UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said that 80% of the close contacts of an infected person must be told to self-isolate within 48 to 72 hours for the national programme for it to be effective, so any delay risks allowing COVID-19 to spread.
This comes after 15 million people in the UK have been vaccinated for the coronavirus, with everyone in the top four of the UK’s priority groups having been offered a vaccine for COVID-19, the nation’s health secretary has now confirmed.
Amazon reports cases of the coronavirus to Public Health England on a daily basis. The government body then deals with the onward transfer to test and trace, as well as the relevant bodies within the devolved nations where staff are based in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “NHS test and trace has the capacity to process over 700,000 tests a day from more than 800 test centres and mobile units, with the vast majority of people reporting no issues with the process.”
“On Saturday, some Amazon staff members who tested negative for Covid-19 received notifications from NHS test and trace to say they have tested positive and asking them to self-isolate. Working closely with Amazon, NHS test and trace rapidly notified affected employees to let them know they did not need to isolate.”