16,000 UK cases of Covid-19 were missed due to an IT error - here’s what happened

Monday, 5th October 2020, 10:35 am
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 10:36 am
The technical error resulted in nearly 16,000 missed cases of Covid-19 (Photo: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
The technical error resulted in nearly 16,000 missed cases of Covid-19 (Photo: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Almost 16,000 cases of coronavirus went unreported in the UK after a technical error delayed Track and Trace staff from getting in touch with the contacts of those who tested positive, it has been revealed.

The announcement comes after a further 22,961 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the UK, taking the total number to over 500,000 since the pandemic began.

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What happened?

Interim chief executive at Public Health England (PHE), Michael Brodie, said, “A technical issue was identified overnight on Friday 2 October in the data load process that transfers Covid-19 positive lab results into reporting dashboards.

“After rapid investigation, we have identified that 15,841 cases between 25 September and 2 October were not included in the reported daily Covid-19 cases. The majority of these cases occurred in most recent days.”

Brodie explained that each of those people received their Covid-19 test results as normal, and those who tested positive were told to self isolate.

Test and Trace and PHE joint medical director, Dr Susan Hopkins, told Sky News, “There’s no delay in people receiving their test results.

“The delays are in reporting to the dashboard and to the public and there’s been a delay in contact tracing initiation.”

‘Failure in the system’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that there had been a “failure in the counting system”, but that the issue has been “rectified.”

Speaking in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Johnson said, “All the people who had a positive test have now been notified and I think the data we have is realistic, and again it’s very useful in helping us to identify, you know, where the incidence is and what we need to do to tackle it.”

The Prime Minister added that people should “behave fearlessly, but with common sense.”

Backlash over the glitch

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Bridget Philipson, called the error “shambolic” in an interview with Sky News.

She said, “It’s clearly very concerning and the health secretary should come to the commons today and set out just what’s gone on.

“This is shambolic, and we’ve seen decisions taken around areas to move into additional local restrictions. We need to know what impact this faulty data has had on government decision making.”

Philipson added that the Test and Trace and isolation system “just isn’t working as it should.”

“It’s taking too long for people to get a test, where one is available, and also we’re not effectively tracking down people who have been in contact with someone who has had a positive test,” Philipson said.