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50,000 tests sent to US after mechanical problems at Northern Ireland firm Randox

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A member of staff hands over a Randox laboratories Covid-19 self test kit to a member of the public at a drive-through test centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA

A member of staff hands over a Randox laboratories Covid-19 self test kit to a member of the public at a drive-through test centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA

PA

A member of staff hands over a Randox laboratories Covid-19 self test kit to a member of the public at a drive-through test centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA

Northern Ireland-based biotech firm Randox has been caught up in a Covid-19 testing furore after it was revealed thousands of UK coronavirus tests had to be flown to the USA this week after problems with machinery used to process the tests.

The Sunday Telegraph reported Government sources as saying there had been a problem with a machine at a commercial laboratory run by Randox in Northern Ireland, which had now been rectified.

The paper claimed that 50,000 tests had been sent to the US, where they were processed at a university lab.

A Randox spokesperson told the Belfast Telegraph the company had "no understanding of samples being sent to the US".

A Department of Health source said: "We were able to send approximately 50,000 test samples to a US laboratory earlier this week.

"Validation of the results will be completed in the UK, and all results will be returned to patients as quickly as possible.

"Delays in the system this week arose as a result of operational issues in our lab network.

"We have worked to resolve these issues and capacity is rapidly being restored.

"It is not surprising when a system is brand new that there will be some teething problems in the first weeks of operation.

"It is important not to draw too many conclusions from a few days' worth of data.

"Over one million people have now been tested in the UK and the vast majority report no issues with the process."

Randox said staff were working "diligently to process all tests in a timely manner in what is an unprecedented testing program facing an unprecedented threat, and we are committed to the provision of optimal support to the national response to COVID-19".

“There are always challenges when there are global supply chain issues affecting all countries and organisations. We are successfully overcoming these issues and moving forward positively with all stakeholders," a spokesperson said.

Randox, which employs around 1,400 people, is one of the biggest biotech firms in Northern Ireland.

At the start of April it announced it had stopped selling its coronavirus home-testing kits directly to the public due to its role in helping the UK Government with testing.

Last week the firm announced that it was recruiting 200 new staff, including 160 mechanical, electrical and manufacturing engineers as it ramps up Covid-19 testing at its Co Antrim facility.

The engineers, who will start at the Randox Science Park in Massereene later this month, will work on the fast-track development of specialist molecular analysers used to detect the presence of Covid-19.

It wants to build 200 testing platforms over the next six weeks to boost the UK Government's national testing scheme for key workers, as well as to carry out testing across the population.

Belfast Telegraph