Matt Hancock Has Revealed 8,000 People With Coronavirus Have Not Had Their Contacts Traced After An IT Error
Health secretary Matt Hancock said only half of those positive cases missed off the totals have now been contacted (Parliamentlive.TV)
Matt Hancock has revealed almost 8,000 people with coronavirus have still not had their contacts traced after a massive computer glitch missed off a swathe of positive tests.
The health secretary was accused of presiding over a “shambles” that was “putting lives at risk” after telling MPs the problem was to do with a “legacy Public Health England system”.
He was delivering a statement in the Commons after it was revealed 15,841 Covid-19 cases were missed off the published totals.
But this also meant their cases had not been passed on to NHS Test and Trace, allowing those who had come into contact with the infected to remain unaware, and potentially continuing to spread the disease.
Mr Hancock said as of this morning only half of those missing cases had been contacted a second time, meaning the contacts of around 7,760 people were yet to be reached.
"Contact tracing of these cases began first thing Saturday,” he said.
“We brought in 6,500 hours of extra contact tracing over the weekend and I can report to the House as of 9am today 51% of the cases have now been contacted a second time for contract tracing purposes.
"I want to reassure the House that outbreak control in care homes, schools and hospitals has not been directly affected because dealing with outbreaks in these settings does not primarily rely on this PHE system."
The Cabinet minister added: "This incident should never have happened but the team has acted swiftly to minimise its impact, and now it is critical that we work together to put this right and make sure it never happens again.”
And he said despite the large additional number of cases now added to the overall total, he said the government's assessment of the pandemic has "not substantially changed".
Mr Hancock explained: "This morning the Joint Biosecurity Centre presented to me their updated analysis of the epidemic based on the new figures.
"The chief medical officer (Chris Whitty) has analysed that our assessment of the disease and its impact has not substantially changed as a result of these data.
"The JBC has confirmed that this has not impacted the basis on which decisions about local action were taken last week. Nevertheless, this is a serious issue that is being investigated fully."
He said the problem was in the reporting and not the testing itself, saying “every single person that tested positive was told that result in the normal way in the normal timeframe” and notified of the need to self-isolate.
But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said despite Boris Johnson’s claim the UK would have “a world-beating system”, months in it “is neither competent nor improving.”
He said the government “is failing on the basics” and called on Mr Hancock to apologise.
"In recent weeks we've had people told to travel hundreds of miles for a test, we've had hundreds of children out of school unable to get a test” Mr Ashworth added.
“We've had tracers sitting idle watching Netflix. We've had care home tests taking days to be processed.
"Yesterday we had a health minister saying this could be a moment of national pride like the Olympics.
“We've had a Prime Minister in a complete muddle over the rules and now, at one of the most crucial points in this pandemic, we learn that almost 16,000 positive cases when unreported for a week.
"That means as many as 48,000 contacts not traced and not isolating. Thousands of people blissfully unaware they've been exposed to Covid potentially spreading this deadly virus at a time when hospital admissions are increasing and we're in the second wave.
"This isn't just a shambles, it's so much worse than this and it gives me no comfort to say it, but it's putting lives at risk and he should apologise when he responds."