Up to 100 people wrongly told test was negative due to IT glitch

Director apologises but says there is ‘no problem’ with German lab that tested the samples

An “IT glitch” was responsible for an issue that led to up to 100 people being incorrectly informed their Covid-19 test was negative, public health officials have said.

Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, apologised to those affected for the distress involved but said there was "no problem" with the lab that had tested the samples in Germany.

Some of the more than 27,000 samples tested in Germany came back with invalid results. Normally the people involved would be followed up for repeat testing but, given the amount of time that had passed, it was decided this would “not be helpful”, Dr de Gascun said.

The raw data related to the samples was reviewed and the samples were reprocessed. However, the computer script that was written to extract the data for listing did not recognise invalid samples, and defaulted to negative, he said.


The problem had since been fixed and all files had been reviewed, Dr de Gascun told the briefing given by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on Tuesday.


Another 41 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 have died, NPHET reported.

The record daily total of deaths included 16 women and 25 men.

Some 36 of the deaths occurred in the east of the country, four in the west and one in the south.

The median age of the deaths reported on Tuesday is 85, and 31 of the patients were reported as having underlying health conditions.

There have now been a total of 406 coronavirus-related deaths in the Republic.

Some 548 new cases of the disease were also reported by Irish laboratories on Tuesday, as well as 284 processed in German labs, bringing the total number of cases to 11,479.

As of last Monday, 90,646 tests had been carried out on Irish samples, NPHET said. Some 62,952 were completed in Irish laboratories, and 27,694 in German labs.

Over the past week, 20,468 tests were carried out in Irish labs, of which 4,233 were positive, a positivity rate of 21 per cent.

Of the deaths which have have occurred so far, 66 per cent occurred in hospitals, including 10 per cent in ICU. Some 83 per cent of patients who died had underlying conditions; 59 per cent were men, and 41 per cent women.

The mean age of those who died was 69 years, and the median age 82.

The number of patients in ICU dropped slightly on Monday, to 160.


Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan reported 238 clusters of the disease in residential settings, including 156 in nursing homes.

Of the deaths that have occurred, 222 are associated with residential settings, including 187 in nursing homes.

Dr de Gascun, chairman of NPHET’s expert advisory group, said: “Having come through a challenging few weeks, we have significantly strengthened testing capacity and will continue to do so over the coming week, to put us in a very strong position to identify and suppress the virus.”

As of last Sunday, 54 per cent of confirmed cases were in women and 45 per cent in men, while the median age was 48 years.

Some 275 cases have been admitted to ICU, and 2,707 cases are associated with healthcare workers.

At a meeting on Tuesday, NPHET recommended the HSE put in place a co-ordinated national process to identify the prevalence of Covid-19 across nursing homes and other residential healthcare settings, as recommended by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The group also directed the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre to develop a strategy to conduct a seroprevalence study which will identify the proportion of the population who have ever had Covid-19, regardless of testing.

“We remain concerned about the prevalence of Covid-19 in nursing homes and residential care settings,” Dr Holohan said.

“The NPHET is monitoring developments in these facilities and continues to advance supports and actions where needed.

“From the beginning, we have been aware that vulnerable groups, including the elderly, are at greater risk from this virus. These groups will continue to be our priority.”

Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer, HSE, said: "We are not seeing a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 positive cases in our hospitals or our ICU's over the last number of days, and that is down to the efforts of every individual who has followed advice to stay apart and slow the spread of the virus. To everyone playing their part, the health service is grateful."

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.