The British government will seek refunds for millions of coronavirus test kits purchased from China, after a study of the products found them to be unreliable for use with most patients.
Professor John Bell, coordinator of coronavirus testing for Public Health England, said Monday that the antibody tests are not reliable when used on any patients who do not qualify as severely ill—i.e. most people being tested.
In a blog post, the University of Oxford academic explained: "Sadly, the tests we have looked at to date have not performed well." He added, "We see many false negatives and we also see false positives...This is not a good result for test suppliers or for us."
The British government ordered 3.5 million of the antibody tests, largely from China, last month. A provisional order of 17.5 million kits was placed with nine companies, including some in the U.K., the Daily Telegraph noted. But Bell said none were reliable enough to roll out for mass testing.
Dr. Sharon Peacock of Public Health England had touted the finger-prick blood test kits as a "game-changer." It was hoped that the kits would allow the government to confirm who had already built up immunity to the virus, allowing them to leave lockdown and rejoin the workforce.
Peacock initially said the tests would be rolled out within days, but the apparent failure of the kits means Britons will have to wait longer, though the government Chief Medical Adviser Chris Whitty said Monday he was confident that a successful test would eventually be developed.
The government will now seek refunds for the inadequate equipment, according to The Telegraph.
The U.K. is in the process of "flattening the curve" of COVID-19 infections, with citizens under stay-at-home orders with few exceptions. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson—who tested positive for the virus last month—has been admitted to the intensive care unit of a London hospital after his condition worsened on Monday.
The prime minister was given oxygen but has not been put on a ventilator, hospital officials said. In the meantime, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is heading the government. The U.K. thus far has confirmed 52,279 COVID-19 cases with 5,385 deaths and 287 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The U.K. is the latest European nation to complain about the efficacy of medical supplies sourced from China. Beijing—having seemingly gotten its national outbreak under control—is now pivoting to assist other nations worldwide who are struggling with the virus. The government has sent doctors and tons of equipment to nations in Europe, North America and elsewhere.
But nations including Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic have all rejected thousands of items of medical equipment delivered by Chinese companies for being faulty or otherwise inadequate.