Monday, 23 Nov 2020

Test and Trace blunder saw thousands of cases recorded in wrong area

Around one in eight coronavirus cases were recorded in the wrong location after university students who tested positive were mistakenly listed at their parental addresses, it has emerged.

In the six weeks before the three-tier system was introduced, several university cities were apparently unaware of the scale of the problem in their area.

The blunder occurred after students’ Covid-19 test results were automatically linked to their NHS medical records. Test and Trace then connected a case to a parental address by default, despite some some listing an alternative term-time one, reported The Telegraph.

This meant students who returned positive tests were mistakenly listed as living in their parental home towns, rather than their university accommodation.

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The latest data shows the university cities of Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham had a higher number of cases than Liverpool when it was plunged into the most severe tier three restrictions in October. This suggests they too would have been at risk of such measures earlier, if the cases had been recorded properly.

Public Health England has since corrected the blunder and addresses were reportedly re-allocated on Monday. Certain local authorities have since seen a significant change in their cases rate.

Newcastle had recorded 1,416 positive Covid-19 cases between October 5 and 11 but that number has now shot up by 48% to 2,104.

Nottingham has seen a 30% increase in cases, with its case rate rising from 929 infections per 100,000 to 1,216. It initially recorded having 3,091 cases which have now jumped to 4,049.

Meanwhile, around 30 local authorities saw a drop in total cases of at least 5 per cent, with Richmondshire in North Yorkshire seeing about 12% disappear from its tally.

In total, the North West of England saw an increase of 1,935 cases but East Anglia saw their tally figures drop by 2,208, while the South East saw the biggest fall of 2,344.

Medical director at PHE, Dr Yvonne Doyle, told the Telegraph: ‘We have updated the way we record the location of people who test positive for coronavirus to prioritise addresses given at point of testing, rather than details registered on the NHS database.

‘This better reflects the distribution of positive cases in recent weeks and months, particularly among younger people of university age who may not have yet registered with a GP at their term-time address. 

‘This has not affected any decision about local and national restrictions, which take into account a wider range of evidence.’

PHE said it had also considered whether the knowledge of such cases would have affected tier measures introduced.

But it determined that ‘recording location based on the NHS database has not affected any such decisions which take into account a wider range of evidence.’

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