London corona surge 'caused by glitch that used students' home addresses'
A technical glitch in Public Health England’s computer system could be partly to blame for London’s soaring coronavirus infection rates, it has been claimed.
Many young Londoners who have tested positive while away at university are still being linked to their home disticts in the PHE database, according to a new report from the Evening Standard.
A ‘data enrichment’ process reportedly means positive results from university cities like Leeds, Exeter, Manchester and Durham have been included in figures for London.
It comes as Sadiq Khan warns Londoners could soon be banned from meeting friends indoors ‘this week’ after the city’s infection rate doubled in a fortnight.
PHE blamed an IT error when 16,000 coronavirus cases were missed earlier in October, delaying efforts to trace contacts of people who tested positive.
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Staff at Richmond Council are said to have identified a discrepancy in testing numbers after the borough was hit with the highest infection rate in the capital – a jump from 78.8 cases per 100,000 people to 130.8 per 100,000 in the space of two weeks.
After looking into the issue, workers determined that some laboratory data for positive cases is being run through NHS databases to identify any issues such as missing contact details.
The NHS data takes priority, meaning the process overwrites the students’ home addresses given to staff at test centres.
Richmond Council bosses believe the error could account for 16% of new cases in the borough.
PHE is reportedly working to fix the glitch and assert how much data has been affected.
Twickenham MP Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman, told the Evening Standard: ‘Yet again we’re facing technical glitches with the Government’s disastrous test and trace scheme.
‘Students from across the country were encouraged to go back to university only to face lockdown in their student halls as cases spiked, but the test data is being registered for many as if they were still at home.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘Public Health England uses the most up-to-date information available in Summary Care Records, including details of their address held by their GP, and the postcode provided when someone gets registered and these measures help minimise any discrepancies in local data.
‘Universities encourage students to register at their local GPs on arrival and are working to ensure students are well looked-after on campus.’
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