Singapore secondary school student mistakenly diagnosed with Covid-19 due to human error at lab, says Health Ministry

The hospital said it was due to 'human error'. — Reuters pic
The hospital said it was due to 'human error'. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, July 14 — A human error led to the false diagnosis of a student who was reported to have tested positive for Covid-19, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said today.

The Secondary 1 student from Jurong West Secondary School was reported as a confirmed Covid-19 case last Friday, after she had come into contact with a student who had been infected.

In a press statement, MOH said that the error happened at a Covid-19 test laboratory where a swab sample from an individual who has Covid-19 was mislabelled.

The error occured at a Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) laboratory where patient identifiers on the specimen tubes were not verified.

In a statement, the hospital said it was due to “human error”. 

“We are sorry for the mistake and sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our patients and her school,” it said.

The hospital added that it has audited its laboratory testing for Covid-19 for that period and no other mislabelling was discovered.

“We have also put in place additional checks to prevent such an incident from occurring again,” said TTSH.  

MOH said that the mislabelled sample belonged to a migrant worker who had been isolated since his swab test and is currently well.

The error was discovered after the student was admitted to the National University Hospital where two tests returned a negative result.

MOH said: “The student had so far been isolated and had not come into contact with any other Covid-19 patients and is, therefore, not at risk of infection from other patients in the hospital.”

The ministry said that it takes a serious view of the error.

“We are investigating this matter and will take appropriate actions against the laboratory if it is found to be in breach of protocols,” it said. “In the meantime, the laboratory has reviewed and tightened its processes to prevent a recurrence of the error.”

MOH added that individuals who came into close contact with the first confirmed case at Jurong West Secondary School had all tested negative for Covid-19, meaning that there was no transmission within the school.

In a separate statement, Ms Liew Wei Li, director of schools at the Ministry of Education, said that all 71 staff members and students who were close contacts of the first case had tested negative, but would continue serving home quarantine orders.

Secondary 1 students from the school will continue with home-based learning until July 17, as a number of teachers from the school are in quarantine, Ms Liew said. Classes for all other levels will continue in school as usual.

She gave the assurance that schools have a range of measures to minimise coronavirus transmission. These include spaced-out seating in classrooms to ensure safe distancing, the wearing of face masks, and staggered arrival, dismissal and recess times. — TODAY

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