The ‘design flaw’ that leaves coronavirus test swabs too long to fit inside sample vials

Prof  Alan McNally, infectious illness lead on the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab for Covid-19, mentioned on Wednesday that whereas the overwhelming majority of samples are processed shortly, “hiccups” have been delaying a considerable minority. 

“One of the things that really hold us up is when people haven’t applied the barcodes properly to the sample tubes,” he advised BBC Radio Four. “We additionally get samples the place the lid hasn’t been screwed on correctly. 

“This means the sample leaks out and we have to try to recover it so we can test it. There will be occasions where it takes longer to test, and usually it’s because of small hiccups like that.”

Nicola Stonehouse, professor in molecular virology on the University of Leeds, added that a scarcity of a standardised testing equipment additionally contributes to delays – and certain explains why points round swab checks lengths will not be common, with some customers reporting no issues. 

“There’s a lot of variety in the sample tubes that are coming in,” she advised the Telegraph. “This means that extra human intervention is required to course of them, slowing issues down. 

“A few weeks in the past about 20 to 30 per cent of checks arriving at labs wanted some type of human intervention – be it as a result of a barcode was incorrectly utilized, the lid had come off or the PCR test wanted adjusting to fit the dimensions of the test tube.”

“Things are improving, we’re getting more standardisation, but teething issues are expected when you’re building a system from scratch,” Prof Stonehouse added. “If we’d started this process earlier, most of these issues would already have been ironed out – we’re playing catch up.”

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