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Covid-19: minister `clarifies´ negative test remarks

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Covid-19 cases through December 23, 2020
Covid-19 cases through December 23, 2020
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)
David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A leading scientist for tracking the coronavirus in Bermuda reassured the public yesterday that human error rather than a “glitch” in the testing system had led to some getting sent incorrect results.

Carika Weldon apologised after 24 people were given negative test results when they should have been told they had shown positive for the virus.

Dr Weldon, who has contacted all those affected to explain the situation, said the intensity of the testing regime had put her through “an amount of pressure I’ve never been under”.

More than 125,000 tests for the coronavirus have been carried out in Bermuda since the onset of the pandemic.

Dr Weldon, a genetic researcher, said: “I was covering shifts – people were on quarantine and I wasn’t getting much sleep.”

She said people were “very understanding” when contacted.

Some had not yet read their e-mails with the incorrect negative result.

Others appeared not to have received an e-mail because they had given mistaken contact information.

Dr Weldon said more administrative help for processing test results was being “worked on right now”.

She added: “We will be able to hit the ground running in January.”

The clarification came after Kim Wilson, the health minister, said at a Covid-19 press conference on Tuesday that “an unfortunate glitch” happened at the Government’s molecular diagnostic laboratory last week.

Ms Wilson added that it “led to the issuance of false negative test results to a number of people who were in fact Covid-19 positive”.

The health minister said the lab had reviewed its procedures, and “put in place measures to ensure that this doesn't happen again”.

In a statement last night, Ms Wilson emphasised there had been “no errors with the machinery or the testing process”.

“The testing process has been the same since April and has been working correctly; it is a process in which I have full confidence.”

Dr Weldon said the reference to “false negative” had been an error.

A data entry mistake during the process of compiling batches of results had caused some to be left as negative, in error.

According to the ministry, patients ended up getting called by their doctors stating they had tested positive after an earlier e-mail declared them negative.

Dr Weldon said it had happened in mid-October, as well as earlier this month, when a surge of 40 positive results hit in one weekend.

She added: “No one has ever been told they are positive incorrectly.”

She said that although one person had gone to work after getting a negative result, the mistaken test results did not appear to have caused any further positive cases.

She added: “As far as I’m aware, none of them have.”

Dr Weldon said she had wanted to go public with her apology earlier, but was advised there was no need because she was already contacting people personally.

She said: “I know there are people out on Twitter now saying ’you should never have put your name out there’, but I think as a scientist I have been trained to take accountability for what I do.

“If I run an experiment and it doesn’t work, I can’t blame the machine. I know it’s something I did wrong; that’s ingrained in me.

“Fix the issue, and you get better results.

“I have been given accolades and it’s great to accept that, but I also think it’s needed to publicly accept when you’ve made mistakes.

“People deserve to know what happened and to get clarity.”

David Burt, the Premier, tweeted yesterday praising Dr Weldon for taking “full responsibility”.

He added: “Dr Weldon and her team have done an amazing job working extremely long hours to ensure that Bermuda is the fifth most tested country in the world.”

Mr Burt said: “Though it is easy to criticise this incident, Dr Weldon and her molecular diagnostics laboratory team have done a stellar job for Bermuda under very difficult circumstances.“

He added: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

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Published December 24, 2020 at 8:20 am (Updated December 24, 2020 at 3:41 pm)

Covid-19: minister `clarifies´ negative test remarks

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