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Public Health England (PHE) has identified a technical glitch that led to nearly 16,000 positive tests for Covid-19 coronavirus going unreported.
The fault, which was reportedly caused by a data file exceeding its maximum file transfer size, meant that between 25 September and 2 October 2020, 15,841 cases were missed.
PHE said the reporting issue only meant that the cases were not reported in the daily Covid-19 list, and people who tested positive were informed of their results “in the normal way”.
Susan Hopkins, medical adviser for Test and Trace and PHE, said PHE analysis showed that the 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,” she said.
“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.”
PHE said that by 1am on 3 October, all the outstanding cases had been transferred to the contact-tracing system, and the government had undertaken a public health risk assessment to ensure contact tracing was still effective.
Last month, the government launched its coronavirus contact-tracing app, which forms a central part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme – identifying the contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and helping to prevent further spread of the virus.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said last week that as of 12 noon on 28 September, the app had been downloaded 12.4 million times.
In August 2020, the government announced it would create a new organisation to merge Public Health England with the NHS Test and Trace programme. The new National Institute of Health Protection will be chaired by NHS Test and Trace executive chair Dido Harding.
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