How does data blunder affect battle against Covid-19?

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An IT blunder has led to delays in efforts to reach thousands of people in contact with people who tested positive for Covid-19.

Here’s what we know so far:

– Why was there such a big leap in cases over the weekend?

According to official data there were 22,961 cases of coronavirus reported on Sunday and 12,872 reported on Saturday.

But it has emerged that the big leap in cases occurred due to a “technical issue” which was found on Friday evening.

This glitch meant that 15,841 cases between September 25 and October 2 were left out of the reported daily coronavirus cases.

– Does this mean there has been a surge in coronavirus cases?

Officials said that the data published on October 3 and 4 are “artificially high” – because it includes cases from as far back as September 25.

But the reported positive cases are still new infections contributing to the rising tide of cases across the UK.

(PA Graphics)

– Has the problem been sorted?

A note on the Government’s coronavirus data dashboard says that the issue has been “resolved” and PHE has said that “further robust measures have been put in place as a result”.

The issue occurred because some files containing positive test results exceeded the maximum file size that takes these data files and loads then into central systems, officials said.

A person using the NHS Covid-19 app (Scott D'Arcy/PA)
A person using the NHS Covid-19 app (Scott D’Arcy/PA)

– Did it affect when people got their test results?

No. Officials from PHE and Test and Trace said that people who were tested received their Covid-19 test results in a “normal way”.

– So were contacts of these positive cases reached and told to self-isolate?

As soon as the missing cases were reported, officials said that the information was “immediately” handed to NHS Test and Trace so contact tracing could begin and people in contact with those who had the virus were instructed to self isolate.

But the blunder will have led to an inevitable delay in some contacts being reached.

– Will this have contributed to the spread of the virus?

There is no way of knowing the precise ramifications of the error because of the way the new coronavirus spreads.

Some people are asymptomatic carriers and will be infected without knowing, while others will show symptoms, including a loss or change in sense of smell or taste, a new and persistent cough and a fever; others could be “pre-symptomatic”.

A cyclist passes a Covid-19 test centre sign (Andrew Milligan/PA)
A cyclist passes a Covid-19 test centre sign (Andrew Milligan/PA)

This could lead to them continuing their lives as normal in the community and potentially increasing the spread of the virus.

– Do we know where in the country has been affected by the issue?

Information from health officials does not make clear where the newly reported cases come from in the country.

But officials have said that the missed data reporting “does not impact the basis on which decisions about local action were taken last week”.

– So how many cases does this mean have been recorded in total?

The number of reported positive Covid-19 cases in the UK has now passed half a million, with the cases reported over the weekend tipping the positive cases over the 500,000 mark – 502,978 cases according to the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.

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