Coronavirus: Screening

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 7th December 2021.

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Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what estimate he has made of the proportion of covid-19 testing labs that have the technology and capacity to identify the (a) delta variant and (b) omicron variant from PCR swabs.

Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

A combination of current single gene target failure (SGTF) capability and the current genotyping assay coverage, there are rapid ‘proxy’ ways to detect the Omicron variant in 75-80% of all samples processed by lighthouse laboratories. At present, all samples of interest are being directed to laboratories which can report SGTF and are being prioritised for sequencing.

A genotyping assay capable of detecting Delta variant with more than 90% accuracy and Omicron with 88% accuracy is already in place in eight lighthouse laboratories providing approximately 15%, or 30,000 samples per day, coverage of positive viable samples. All pillar 1 positive samples are tested via the current genotyping assay and capable of detecting Delta variant with more than 90% accuracy and Omicron with 88% accuracy. Most pillar 1 labs are not able to detect SGTF. There are plans to implement the assays in the final two lighthouse laboratories in the coming weeks.

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