Around 50,000 coronavirus test samples had to be sent to the US due to “operational issues” in the UK, it has been revealed.
The news came as the number of daily coronavirus tests fell below Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s 100,000 target for a seventh day in a row.
Following a report in the Sunday Telegraph, the Department of Health said sending swabs abroad is one of the contingencies to deal with so-called teething problems in a rapidly-expanded testing system.
It is understood the test results will be validated back in the UK and communicated to patients “as quickly as possible”.
The department said work has been undertaken to resolve the issues and capacity is quickly being restored.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The expansion of the UK’s coronavirus testing network has involved setting up an entirely new ‘Lighthouse’ lab network to process test swabs.
“When problems arise, we have contingencies in place which include creating extra temporary capacity for our labs or sending swabs abroad to partner labs for completion.
“Of course, our partner labs must match our high standards.”
As of 9am 9 May, there have been 1,728,443 tests, with 96,878 tests on 08 May.
1,270,408 people have been tested of which 215,260 tested positive.
As of 5pm on 8 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 31,587 have sadly died. pic.twitter.com/sXrY2tJnGN
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) May 9, 2020
The Sunday Telegraph reported the samples were airlifted to the US in chartered flights from Stansted airport.
Earlier, at the daily Downing Street briefing it was confirmed 96,878 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 9am on Saturday, down from 97,029 the day before.
But health leaders said that they expected “fluctuations” in the figures, and that testing was still much higher than it was at the start of the outbreak.