The total number of lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has now passed 500,000, as it emerged that thousands of cases were not included in daily reports due to a technical issue with the Government’s Covid-19 dashboard.
Public Health England (PHE) said its investigation into the technical issue identified that 15,841 cases between September 25 and October 2 were not included in the reported daily Covid-19 cases.
The majority of these cases occurred in most recent days, PHE said.
For example, 4,786 cases which were due to be reported on October 2 were not included in the daily total on the dashboard that day, when the figure was given as 6,968.
The Government’s dashboard said that, as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 22,961 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 502,978.
A note on the dashboard said: “The cases by publish date for 3 and 4 October include 15,841 additional cases with specimen dates between 25 September and 2 October – they are therefore artificially high for England and the UK.”
Michael Brodie, the interim chief executive at PHE, said the “technical issue” was identified overnight on Friday October 2 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.
“Every one of these cases received their Covid-19 test result as normal and all those who tested positive were advised to self-isolate.
“NHS Test and Trace and PHE have worked to quickly resolve the issue and transferred all outstanding cases immediately into the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing system and I would like to thank contact tracing and health protection colleagues for their additional efforts over the weekend.
“We fully understand the concern this may cause and further robust measures have been put in place as a result,” he said.
Test and Trace and Public Health England joint medical adviser, Susan Hopkins, said the issue had not prevented people receiving their test result or affected decision-making in local areas.
She said: “Our analysis now shows that this issue affected a total of 15,841 cases from the period between 25 September and 2 October, with the majority occurring in recent days. This means the total number of positive cases over this period was higher than previously reported.
“Of these, over 75% (11,968) relate to cases that should have been reported between 30 September and 2 October.
“This issue did not affect people receiving their Covid-19 test results and all people who tested positive have received their Covid-19 test result in the normal way. It also does not impact the basis on which decisions about local action were taken last week.
“All outstanding cases were immediately transferred to the contact tracing system by 1am on 3 October and a thorough public health risk assessment was undertaken to ensure outstanding cases were prioritised for contact tracing effectively.
“The advice remains the same. If you have tested positive you must self-isolate immediately for at least 10 days from when your symptoms began and we urge everyone who is contacted by NHS Test and Trace to provide details of their recent contacts.”
PHE said NHS Test and Trace have made sure that there are more than enough contact tracers working, and are working with local Health Protection Teams to ensure they also have sufficient resources to be urgently able to contact all cases.
The number of call attempts are being increased from 10 to 15 over 96 hours.
PHE said the technical issue was caused by the fact that some files containing positive test results exceeded the maximum file size that takes these data files and loads them into central systems.
They said a rapid mitigation has been put in place that splits large files and a full end-to-end review of all systems has been instigated to mitigate the risk of this happening again.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday that there was “a failure in the counting system which has now been rectified”.
He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show it was a “computing issue” and all those who had a positive test had been notified.
Experts have previously warned that describing the daily figure as a record could be “misleading” as it is not clear how many people were actually infected during the height of the first wave, due to a lack of community testing at the time.