Analysis reveals just 13% of positive Covid tests from red list countries checked for new variants - APPG on Coronavirus

Analysis reveals just 13% of positive Covid tests from red list countries checked for new variants  

  • Commons Library research reveals “staggering” fall in PCR tests for red and amber list countries being sequenced for new variants.

  • Analysis of NHS test and trace data estimates just 13% of positive tests from red list countries and 3% from amber list countries were checked for variants in three weeks to 30th June.

  • Government accused of “opening the floodgates” to Covid variants amid rising concern over Beta mutation..

  • Commons Library research reveals “staggering” fall in PCR tests for red and amber list countries being sequenced for new variants.

  • Analysis of NHS test and trace data estimates just 13% of positive tests from red list countries and 3% from amber list countries were checked for variants in three weeks to 30th June.

  • Government accused of “opening the floodgates” to Covid variants amid rising concern over Beta mutation..

There has been a sharp decline in the number of positive test results from amber and red list countries being sequenced for Covid variants, House of Commons library research commissioned by the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus has revealed.

The data prompted warnings that the government is “opening the floodgates” to new variants, amid rising concerns about increasing cases of the Beta variant in countries such as Spain and France.

The figures suggest that just 13% of positive test results from red list countries were sequenced for new variants in the three weeks to 30th June, compared to 65% in March. It also finds that an estimated 3% of positive test results of arrivals from amber list countries were sequenced for Covid variants in the three weeks to the 30th June, compared to 61% in March. 

The estimates are based on analysis of the latest NHS Test and Trace data, and show there were at least 1,388 positive tests of arrivals from amber list countries in the three-week period up to 30 June, up from 787 in the preceding three weeks.

It comes despite the government saying earlier this month that PCR tests for travellers arriving from red and amber list countries would continue and that "any positive results will be genomically sequenced to continue to manage the risk from importing variants."

 

Layla Moran MP, Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus said: 

“These figures are truly staggering and make a mockery of the UK government's claim to be a global leader in genome sequencing.

The rise of the Beta variant in neighbouring countries should be setting alarm bells ringing in government. Yet instead ministers are dismantling our defences against the virus and opening the floodgates to new variants. 

 

It seems that vital lessons have still not been learned from the failure to prevent the Delta variant taking root in the UK. The government must urgently fix this scandal and step up the sequencing of test results, before more dangerous Covid variants slip through the net."

 

ENDS 

 

Press Contact: [email protected] 07964840387 

 

Notes to Editor

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus is conducting a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic and has so far held 26 hearings and made over 50 recommendations.  The APPG brings together 74 MPs and peers from across the political spectrum, representing all four nations and every Westminster party.  

In May 2021, the APPG on Coronavirus published a cross-party report calling for stricter checks at UK borders and airports, to prevent the risk of Covid variants entering the UK that could fuel a third wave.

This followed an APPG evidence session on 20 April 2021 at which public health experts warned that the government's lax approach was opening the UK up to new variants. Public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally warned the number of cases of imported Covid mutations such as the Indian variant could be ten to twenty times higher than official data suggests. He stated that only 5% to 10% of PCR tests are sent to laboratories to check for variants and that this analysis can take several weeks, meaning the government’s approach is equivalent to “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”.

When it announced that fully vaccinated arrivals from amber list countries will no longer need to quarantine from Monday 19 July, the government said that passengers will still need to take a PCR test and that "any positive results will be genomically sequenced to continue to manage the risk from importing variants."
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/quarantine-free-travel-to-resume-on-19-july-for-fully-vaccinated-passengers-returning-from-amber-list-countries 

When it launched the traffic light system on 9 April 2021, the government claimed that: "the UK is a global leader in genome sequencing, which in positive cases allows the identification of variants of concern." It added that  "testing post-arrival remains an important tool in our wider measures to manage the risk of imported cases - allowing us to monitor positive tests and ensure people isolate, as well as identify and genomically sequence variants of concern."

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/global-travel-taskforce-sets-out-framework-to-safely-reopen-international-travel


 

Source: DHSC, NHS Test and Trace Weekly Statistics (England)