Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey blames an “IT failure” for a delay in reporting 15,841 COVID-19 cases in England
People might have been infected with COVID-19 as a result of nearly 16,000 positive coronavirus cases being missed from the government’s test and trace scheme, a cabinet minister has admitted.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey blamed an “IT failure” within Public Health England for a delay in the reporting of 15,841 coronavirus cases throughout England.
Ministers have been accused of overseeing a “shambolic” system since the glitch was acknowledged.
This comes after the UK’s benefits system is bracing for up to four million people becoming unemployed in the coming months, due to the economic fall-out of the COVID-19 crisis accelerating.
Asked whether or not others might have been infected with the coronavirus due to the NHS Test and Trace system not being aware of the nearly 16,000 cases, Ms Coffey said: “There may well be.”
“I’ve been made aware that probably the majority of that [contact-tracing] has happened in the latest element of the week, in the last couple of days.”
“So it’s important that we act quickly, and PHE is acting quickly, to see whether or not people are required to self-isolate.”
“Because I do recognise that not quite everybody going through the regime will be identified by the test and trace regime to undertake that further self-isolation.”
Breakdown of missing cases
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Asked whether or not the British government would be issuing a formal apology over the issue, Ms Coffey has pointed towards Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s expected appearance within the House of Commons on Monday.
Ms Coffey, in an earlier broadcast interview, said that she was unable to say just how many close contacts of COVID-19 cases were not contacted as a result of the system’s failure.
“I’m afraid I just don’t have that information,” she said on the BBC Breakfast show.
Asked whether these people have now been contacted, she said: “I know that people who had the initial results have all been contacted, I don’t know the answer to that question.”
The shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Labour MP Bridget Phillipson, accused ministers of overseeing a “shambolic” system.
“Test, trace and isolate just isn’t working,”
Lucy Powell, a fellow Labour frontbencher as well as the Manchester Central MP and a shadow business minister, said that it was “very concerning” that infection rates of the coronavirus had been revised within Greater Manchester following the discovery of this devastating computer issue.
“Local understanding of what lies behind this increase is critical before we see ever more stringent restrictions imposed on us,” she posted on Twitter.
“We’ve already been living under local restrictions longer (over 2 months) than most places.”
This comes after a minister has suggested that tighter social restrictions could potentially be imposed if COVID-19 infections in the UK continue to rise. Helen Whately blames restrictions on household mixing as a newspaper says a government source claims the action “will have to come”.
Public Health England had said on Sunday that the people involved all eventually received their COVID-19 test results and all of those who tested positive were advised to immediately self-isolate.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the Joint medical director, said to Sky News that: “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.
“Public Health England apologise that this occurred and have put in place steps to prevent this happening again.”