October 05, 2020
Contact tracers are still scrambling to reach around 23,500 people after an IT error meant thousands of Covid-19 cases were not logged on government computers, Matt Hancock has admitted. 
Matt Hancock Admits 23,000 Contacts Of Missing Covid Cases Still Not Traced
The health secretary was speaking in the Commons after the shock disclosure that almost 16,000 lab-confirmed cases had been overlooked for more more than a week. 
Experts estimate that 48,000 people who came into contact with someone infected were not alerted as a result. 
Hancock said that as of 9am on Monday, contact tracers had only reached 51% of the missing cases’ close contacts – meaning some 23,500 have still not been alerted to their risk of having the potentially deadly disease. 
Amid accusations from Labour that the government was “failing on the basics”, Hancock blamed Public Health England’s “legacy” computer systems and said tracers were working overtime to correct the cock-up. 
He told MPs an investigation was underway and added: “Contact tracing of these cases began first thing Saturday. 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 contact 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 UK’s total number of confirmed cases has now surpassed 500,000. 
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said problems with testing were “putting lives at risk”, adding Hancock “should apologise”.
He added: “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. 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 went 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.”
Ashworth renewed calls for the government to reconsider outsourcing giant Serco’s role in NHS Test and Trace. 
He added: “Surely now is the time to not renew Serco’s contract and instead give responsibility and resources to NHS labs and local public health teams to deliver testing and tracing?”
Hancock, who sidestepped the invitation to apologise, also faced calls to publish criteria for when local lockdowns could be lifted, adding some areas felt restrictions were “like Hotel California – you can check out but you can never leave – and families deserve answers”. Related... Austerity Helped Government Respond To Coronavirus, Says Rishi Sunak Tory Rebellion Threat As MPs Get Vote On Covid-19 'Rule Of Six' A Second National Lockdown Seems Inevitable. Here's What Stands In The Way
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