SYDNEY, Australia—Sydney’s St Vincent’s hospital has been forced to chase down hundreds of people after it sent more than 400 incorrect negative COVID-19 results on Christmas Day.
There are concerns those who received the false-negative result on Saturday night were then infectious in the community before being alerted to the error on Sunday.
The hospital said its pathology unit immediately started the process of contacting the positive cases as soon as it became aware of the issue in the morning.
“An emergency response team is now investigating the cause of this mistake, which is believed to be human error,” a statement issued on Boxing Day said.
“We sincerely apologise to all those impacted.”
The results pertained to tests taken on Wednesday and Thursday.
Testing labs across the state are under pressure due to high demand with an average of about 145,000 swabs a day over the past week.
Daily tests eclipsed 160,000 a day in the lead up the Christmas, around double to what it was a fortnight earlier.
The statement came hours after the NSW premier and health minister warned of the impact of state-mandated “tourist tests” clogging up resources on the state’s system.
Some jurisdictions such as Queensland require a negative PCR test result from within the 72 hours before entering the state.
“Tourism tests are putting substantial pressure on the system,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Sunday.
“That’s just not long queues, it’s slowing down the turnaround time for NSW Health to be able to process those tests and get that information back to people who may be unwell or have COVID.”
Perrottet said he didn’t believe in lining up for a PCR test when people weren’t provided much of a public health benefit.
“Ultimately they need to keep their people safe. We just don’t believe that the requirement of a PCR test for somebody who is not unwell is actually supportive of that view,” he said.
Queensland will move to allow a negative rapid antigen test in the new year while South Australia scrapped the pre-travel testing requirements as it announced a range of new measures to curb rising case numbers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said there is an argument to scrap all testing mandates for interstate travel.
He said there was no Commonwealth health advice saying entry tests were needed for such travel.
One in every thousand people being tested for travel purposes returned a positive result compared to between 17 and 20 people for every thousand tests on close contacts and those with symptoms, according to the prime minister.
By Dominic Giannini