Reporting delays in Liverpool for covid-19 tests

For covid-19 tests done in Liverpool, there is a 3-day average time from the sample being taken to the result being reported. (for data for week ending 30 Sep 2020). This compares very poorly with the acceptable standard that most results should be available within 24 hours.

The chart shows the distribution of the reporting delays.


Liverpool currently has one of the highest reported rates of new cases of covid-19 in the UK, and the rate is increasing rapidly - so it is vitally important that test results are rapidly available so that infectious people can self-isolate, and contacts can be traced.

Liverpool on 30 September had as many cases as nine countries added together:


What these countries have in common is that they all have an efficient system for testing suspected cases and tracing the contacts of those tested positive - if results of testing are not available for three days, the contacts of an infected individual who have also become infected are spreading the virus to other individuals before they are alerted to isolate.

One example is Vietnam. By Feb 7, scientists at Hanoi University had developed a test that would give a result in 70 minutes (https://ourworldindata.org/covid-exemplar-vietnam). By September, the UK Government's system cannot do the same in less than 3 days. The problem is the centralised, privatised system - local systems would be much quicker.

If Vietnam can set up 60 testing centres around their country, test samples promptly, and eliminate the virus (https://ourworldindata.org/covid-exemplar-vietnam), this should be happening in Merseyside.

The situation is a scandal - it should be corrected urgently.



How was the data obtained

The data came from the Liverpool section of the UK Government's coronavirus data webpage https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/cases?areaType=ltla&areaName=Liverpool.
This is updated every day with a spreadsheet of the new cases, giving a breakdown by date of testing.
By recording the spreadsheets published each day, and comparing each with the next, the day of testing can be calculated for each reported case, which gives the days delay from testing to report.


First published: 27 Sep 2020
Last updated: 30 Sep 2020