AN INVESTIGATION has been launched after students at one of the country’s worst-hit universities were given used swabs to test for coronavirus.
Around 25 kits were supplied to households in Selly Oak, Birmingham — an area popular with undergraduates.
They were distributed as part of the city council’s ‘drop and collect’ door-to-door service. The test involves taking a swab inside the nose and from the back of the throat using a long cotton bud. The alarm was raised by housemates and second-year medical students Tasha Ashbridge and Sophie Dunne who noticed their kits had been opened.
They rushed to warn neighbours but at least five male students had already used the swabs. The young men were left ‘distressed, shocked and violated’ and are now in self-isolation fearing that they may have been exposed to Covid-19.
One of them, David Lewes, 21, said: ‘We are not familiar with the testing procedure and were a bit concerned there were no leaflets or information packs inside.’
He added: ‘My friend threw up after finding out they had been used before.’
Around 300 students at the University of Birmingham have tested positive for coronavirus.
The RAF is helping council workers drop off self-test kits in an effort to stop its spread.
Ms Dunne told the university’s student newspaper Redbrick: ‘This was my first at-home test but I could see that it had already been used due to snapped-off swabs in the test tube.’
She added: ‘There were loads of people at their doors saying the same thing — it’s such a scary thing to happen.’
Birmingham city council said in a statement: ‘We are aware that a small number of tests were mistakenly given out during drop and collect activity in Selly Oak… there is no risk of contamination.’
Public health director Dr Justin Varney insisted that a seal had been broken on only one of the 25 kits.
But Ms Ashbridge said: ‘I have photos showing multiple kits open.’
The swab kits blunder came to light as it was revealed private consultants have been paid £7,000 a day to work on the government’s NHS Test and Trace system.
Boston Consulting Group received around £10million from the government after a team of 40 executives did four months’ work on the system between April and August, according to Sky News.
The fees are equivalent to annual salaries of £1.5million each.
The Department of Health said: ‘To build the largest diagnostic network in British history, it requires us to work with both public and private sector partners with the specialist skills and experience we need.’