Panorama

How Has One of the U.K.’s Biggest Covid Testing Labs – Exposed by Panorama as Ignoring Protocols Designed to Prevent Cross-Contamination – Been Given a Clean Bill of Health?

We’re publishing an original piece today by Jacinta Taylor, a freelance investigative journalist, about the aftermath of the Panorama investigation into biosecurity lapses at the Lighthouse lab in Milton Keynes, one of seven Lighthouse laboratories that processes PCR tests. Longtime readers will recall that we ran a piece about the risk of cross-contamination at this lab last November by Dr. Julian Harris, a virologist who briefly worked at the facility. He was so concerned by what he witnessed he called in the Health and Safety Executive who identified five material breaches of health and safety legislation at the lab that included inadequate health and safety training for staff and employees working too closely together. The reason this matters is because these lapses can lead to negative test samples being contaminated by positive samples, thereby leading to false positives.

Dr. Harris also complained to the DHSC, but according to him the complaint was never adequately investigated and he also expressed concern that the security breaches exposed by Panorama weren’t properly followed up, even though the DHSC issued a statement to the programme saying: “We take concerns extremely seriously and we will be fully investigating all the allegations that have been made.”

I asked Jacinta to see if she could find out what investigation had been carried out at the behest of the DHSC, who had carried it out and what the conclusions of the investigating team were. She did eventually get an answer from a senior medial relations officer at the DHSC, but it was vague and unsatisfactory.

We have done our best to follow-up the Panorama programme, but the Daily Sceptic lacks the resources to mount a proper investigation, even with readers’ generous donations. It’s a pity no mainstream media publication has pursued this story (although the Independent ran something based on Dr. Harris’s revelations last October). The governments of the four nations of the United Kingdom have relied on PCR testing data to base decisions on whether and when to lock down and nearly every MSM publication faithfully reproduces the daily positive cases from the Government’s coronavirus dashboard, so you’d think they would be a little more curious about the reliability of this data, particularly in light of the lapses flagged up by Dr. Harris and Panorama. But apparently not.

Another reason to properly investigate these failings and whether the DHSC has done anything to make sure they’ve been addressed is that vast sums of public money have been spent on building and developing these labs, which are run in partnership with private firms including the pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca.

Please do read Jacinta’s piece – and if any journalist wants to follow up this story, please get in touch.

Panorama “Breaks” Story on Cross-Contamination in Lighthouse Lab Covered by Lockdown Sceptics Last November

Better late than never I suppose. Tonight’s episode of PanoramaUndercover: Inside the Covid Testing Lab – reveals that staff at the Lighthouse Lab in Milton Keynes have been cutting corners and processing samples in a way that could lead to cross-contamination between test samples. Readers will recall that Lockdown Sceptics published an expose of the very same lab – “Heath and Safety Breaches at the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab” – by an ex-member of staff in November of last year. BBC News has more.

A BBC reporter working as a lab technician, filmed staff cutting corners and processing samples in a way that could cause contamination.

This means some people who had taken a test via NHS Test and Trace may have received no result or a wrong result.

The lab said it had followed all necessary rules and regulations.

Evidence at the lab captured on film shows:

* Checks to ensure samples could be identified, were rushed, meaning tests were sometimes discarded unnecessarily

* Some test samples “glooped” across an area where other samples had been placed, risking contamination

* Swabs used by people to take Covid tests were left in their tubes when processed, presenting a further contamination risk

* A quality control scientist telling the reporter that the quality of the results progressively got worse throughout the day

The findings have led experts to question the way the lab was operating.

The story on BBC News uses the phrase “potential contamination”, but, incredibly, does not use the phrase “false positives”, as if the contamination could be in both directions, with some positive becoming false negatives after being contaminated with material from negative test swabs. Obviously, that isn’t possible. The contamination is all in one direction – negative samples being contaminated with material from positive swabs, thereby becoming false positives.

What this Panorama story tells us is that the number of cases reported by PHE in England during the pandemic, which is partly based on the findings of Lighthouse Labs like the one in Milton Keynes, has been inflated thanks to cross-contamination in the labs.

The BBC story is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Dr Martin Evison, a retired Professor of Forensic and Biological Anthropology and occasional contributor to Lockdown Sceptics, has been in touch to comment on the BBC News story.

I don’t suppose this ‘news’ from the BBC will come as news to anyone who has worked on the PCR analysis of trace samples. It is exactly what one would expect from rushed high volume mass testing with limited and secretive verification.

The BBC article still hasn’t mentioned a key issue in relation to contamination – that is, the use of negative ‘blank’ controls. These should be included at key points in RNA extraction and analysis to establish that purification and PCR steps, test plates, manual or automated liquid handling and so on are free of intrusive SARS-CoV-2 RNA or derived DNA contamination. Blanks should be run regularly to measure background contamination in the laboratory or production line.

I made a futile attempt to find out what controls were being used via an FOI request some months ago, but didn’t get very far.

Judging by the article, it seems a decision was made just to accept an unknown amount of contamination for the sake of throughput in a way that would be unacceptable in forensic work, for example.

It does leave one wondering how much SARS-CoV-2 infection is really circulating when the positive test levels drop to their minimum and whether contamination could also be contributing to mis-classification of non-covid fatalities.

It’s interesting that this seems to be the first really critical and detailed science-related article the BBC have posted on the Government response to COVID. Why only now?