Coronavirus: Incorrect test results for ‘less than 100’ investigated

Test results backlog reduced from about 35,000 people to some 11,000, says HSE

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is investigating an issue where people have been incorrectly informed their test for coronavirus was negative when in fact they had contracted the virus.

A spokeswoman said the HSE had identified “less than 100 people” who were incorrectly informed about the result of their test.

The error occurred in tests where the original result was unclear or “indeterminate”, but people were informed it had been negative, she said.

When the National Virus Reference Laboratory in UCD reviewed the indeterminate results and retested the original samples the results came back as weak positives.


“Unfortunately these indeterminate cases were initially reported as not detected and consequently were notified to people as such,” the spokeswoman said.

People who had been incorrectly informed by text that their test had been negative were then later told of the positive result in phone calls from contact tracing teams, following the review of the samples by the lab. Contact tracing teams alerted the HSE to the issue on Saturday.

“We are satisfied that no other patient has been impacted by this error. The HSE apologises for this error, and every effort has been made to ensure that the correct information is communicated to these patients without delay.”


The issue emerged at a HSE briefing yesterday during which chief executive Paul Reid said the State's coronavirus testing backlog has been reduced from about 35,000 people waiting for results to some 11,000.

He said 25 laboratories were now being used to examine Covid-19 tests, including 20 in hospitals, the national lab in UCD, a Department of Agriculture facility and a centre in Germany, which has assisted in reducing the results backlog.

Mr Reid said nearly 8,000 tests were completed on Saturday. “We did build up a significant backlog . . . that backlog will continue to be reduced and will be reduced completely by the end of this week,” he said.

Mr Reid said some 72,000 tests had been completed in the State, and that this has doubled “in a very short time”.

The average daily number of tests completed was 2,800, but the system hit a “peak” of 7,900 on Saturday, he said.

Cases and deaths

There are now 9,655 confirmed coronavirus cases in the State, and 334 people have died as a result of being infected with Covid-19.

Increased testing capability is regarded as essential by the Government in considering plans to ease restrictions on personal movement, which are in place until May 5th at least.

The State’s testing backlog was created after the criteria for referral was expanded to anyone with one of the symptoms of the virus, and has since been revised to focus on priority cases.

The current demand for tests is about 1,200 per day, and 800 people are waiting to get an appointment at a testing centre, Mr Reid said.

Outbreaks of the virus in nursing homes were an area of "significant concern", said the HSE's chief operations officer Anne O'Connor.

There have been positive cases of Covid-19 in 268 long-term residential settings, 214 of which were nursing homes.

The health service had also identified cases in 32 residential centres for people with disabilities, in 14 mental health residential facilities, in four direct provision centres and in three prisons, Ms O’Connor said.

The HSE has had to increase deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) to nursing homes to combat outbreaks of the virus, she added.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times