Disgust as used coronavirus swap tests handed out by mistake in Birmingham

Used coronavirus swab tests were accidentally given out to households in Birmingham, council officials said.

Birmingham City Council said about 25 kits were given out by mistake in the student area of Selly Oak as part of its “drop-and-collect” service.

It said the error was quickly realised, the kits remained intact and there was no evidence of cross-contamination.

However, student Sophie Dunne, who was given a used kit, said some people opened and used the testing kits.

Ms Dunne said she was approached by council workers at her home in Tiverton Road who she said wanted to give her a free kit because the area was “high risk”.

There are 237 Covd-19 cases currently in Selly Oak and neighbouring Edgbaston South and University wards, making them two of the worst hotspots in the city. 

Ms Dunne said she was told to complete the test within 15 minutes and the team would then return to collect it.

“The boxes… were sealed packages with test tubes and swabs inside which had already been snapped off, so obviously it had been used,” she said.

She said as soon as they realised they “went running up the street to notify the workers handing out the tests”.

Ms Dunne said others were also coming out of their homes with the kits, some of which had other people’s addresses on.Volunteers and RAF personnel distributed kits to households in those areas on Tuesday

“Some of them had carried out the tests again. So they had reused the tests that other people had already done,” she added.

Ms Dunne said she was “in disbelief” that such a thing could happen. 

“I now know the council is saying apparently 25 tests were given out [but] from what we saw being collected in, was a greater figure [or] number than that and people have used them and they have been opened which they’ve [the council] also said they’ve not.”

Her housemate Natasha Ashbridge said a fellow student neighbour told her his whole house had used the kits.

“Fingers crossed none of them are vulnerable,” she said. 

“Obviously students have sort of been blamed for the spike and now it’s probably going to rise potentially further because of this mix-up and it’s not our fault.”

A city council spokesperson said: “As soon as it became apparent that the wrong tests had been given out steps were taken immediately to rectify the mistake.

“Drop and Collect is a vital part of helping to tackle the spread of Covid in our city, with 100,000 tests being undertaken to date. The circumstances around this incident are being fully reviewed and any required changes to process will be implemented.”

Dr Justin Varney, the city’s public health director, said a seal had been broken on only one of the 25 kits and there was “no evidence that that test tube was opened so we think that the risk of contamination from the sample itself is very, very unlikely”.

He said teams were back out at the properties again on Wednesday “to double check” no-one had been put at risk. The risk of contamination from handling the boxes was also “very, very low”, he added.