The delay in entering almost 16,000 covid cases into Government databases has resulted in last week’s case numbers being totally inaccurate. The Secretary of State says that the updated statistics would not have led to additional measures, but are there any new areas of heightened concern? PHE has blamed the problem on test result files being too big to load on to its central system. Was that, as has been suggested, due to the transfer of data between formats? If the underlying issue was due to the rapidly rising number of positive cases, why was that not anticipated or identified sooner? Can he be sure that something like this cannot happen again?
Just as importantly, this means that none of those cases was registered with the tracing system. While, as the Secretary of State says, people with a positive test got their result and, we hope, self-isolated, they did not get direct advice and they did not give the details of their contacts. From the Government’s data, people with covid report an average of three to four contacts each, so that would represent 50,000 to 60,000 contacts who were not identified and asked to isolate and therefore will have continued to spread the virus. While up to 10 days have lapsed and the opportunity to prevent onward spread may have been missed, the Secretary of State mentions that 51% of cases have been contacted, but on what timescale does he hope to reach all the contacts of those cases? Given that only about 60% of community contacts in England are currently reached, will he involve local authority public health teams in what is now a massive contact-tracing operation?