Coronavirus infection rates soar in English cities after thousands of unreported cases added to official tally

Tom Batchelor
·2-min read
A mobile advertising vehicle displaying a coronavirus high risk area warning in Oldham, Greater Manchester (PA)
A mobile advertising vehicle displaying a coronavirus high risk area warning in Oldham, Greater Manchester (PA)

The weekly rate of coronavirus cases in some English cities has soared, new figures show, after nearly 16,000 positive test results that initially went unreported because of a technical error were added to the official tally.

Manchester now has the highest rate in England, with 2,740 cases recorded in the seven days to 1 October - the equivalent of 495.6 cases per 100,000 people.

That is more than double the 223.2 cases per 100,000 in the previous week.

Liverpool has the second highest rate, up from 287.1 to 456.4, with 2,273 new cases and Knowsley in Merseyside is in third place, up from 300.3 to 452.1, with 682 new cases.

Public Health England (PHE) data published on Sunday night also shows sharp rises in Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Leeds and Sheffield, analysis by the Press Association found.

The government has said the failure to report thousands of positive Covid-19 tests last week in England was the result of issues relating to the transfer of data between organisations.

PHE said the glitch resulted in 15,841 cases between 25 September and 2 October being left out of the reported daily coronavirus cases.

The prime minister's official spokesman said there had been a "technical issue" involving NHS Test and Trace and Public Health England (PHE).

A mobile advertising vehicle displaying a coronavirus high risk area warning in Oldham, Greater ManchesterPA
A mobile advertising vehicle displaying a coronavirus high risk area warning in Oldham, Greater ManchesterPA

It is understood to have been linked to an Excel spreadsheet which reached its maximum file size, meaning new names were unable to be added in an automated process.

"The issue relates to the transfer of data between NHS Test and Trace and PHE," the spokesman said.

PHE said every person who was tested received their test result as normal, with all those testing positive told to self-isolate.

However it is believed that contact tracers were unable to alert those who had been in close proximity with infected people to isolate due to the glitch.

Labour’s health spokesperson, Jonathan Ashworth, called the error "shambolic" and said "people across the country will be understandably alarmed”.

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Coronavirus: 'Worrying' questions remain after technical error blamed by PHE for 15,000 missing cases, expert says