The errors meant that more than 700 infected people and their close contacts were not promptly passed on to local health teams, allowing them to potentially spread the disease further.
Two local health officials in the areas affected said it meant that potentially infected people were able to continue circulating in the community without being told to self-isolate. One said a recent surge in their area had been worsened by the “systemic and operational failures” of the government.
It comes as data from Public Health England (PHE) shows there have now been 3,424 confirmed cases of the variant, up from 1,313 cases confirmed last Thursday, a rise of 160% in a week.
This is likely to be an underestimate given the time lag between samples being collected and the presence of the variant within positive samples being determined. PHE says the majority of samples relating to the new total date from around 10-14 days ago.
Downing Street confirmed there had been what it called “a short delay” in tracking down the contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus for several weeks.
But Keith Aspden, the Lib Dem leader of York council, said:
“These failures in government-run centralised systems have been evident throughout the pandemic. The outsourcing of contact tracing in England should be halted with funding instead diverted to local public health teams.”
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said there appeared to have been “a failure right at the top”. He said:
“It is jaw dropping – billions have been spent, but the basics still aren’t working and local areas are battling an increase in the virus.”
Meanwhile on Thursday, Boris Johnson unveiled a plan for what is billed as a “global pandemic radar”, an international effort to both identify new variants of coronavirus and track emerging diseases, allowing the development of tests, vaccines and treatments.
[Ed: If Boris’ so called “global pandemic radar” is even remotely executed (no pun intended) as the Serco outsourced Track-and-Test has, then God help us.]