FAILURES in England’s test-and-trace system are partly responsible for a surge in the Indian variant in one of the worst affected parts of the country, a report seen by the BBC says.
For three weeks in April and May, eight local authorities in England did not have access to the full data on positive tests in their area.
The number of missing cases was highest in Blackburn with Darwen, Lancashire.
A recent surge in infections there has been linked to the Indian variant.
The government said a “small number” of people in contact with those who tested positive for coronavirus had “experienced a temporary delay in getting a message from NHS Test and Trace”.
The other areas affected by what is thought to have been a technical glitch were Blackpool, York, Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock.
Labour called on ministers to “explain what’s gone wrong”.
NHS Test and Trace – for which £37bn has been set aside – identifies people who have been in close contact with someone who has caught Covid.
Between 21 April and 11 May, the system only provided details of a limited number of positive cases of coronavirus to the eight local authorities.
On 11 May, they were told by the Department of Health and Social Care that, over that period, 734 positive tests had not been reported.
According to a report by officials at one of the councils affected, the central test-and-trace system failed to notify its staff of cases, meaning their contacts could not be traced locally.
It says that “the rapid spread of Indian variant cases… may be partially or largely attributable to risks in the international travel control system”, adding: “These were exacerbated by the sporadic failure of the national Test and Trace system.”
Six of the local authorities affected have confirmed to the BBC that they experienced problems.
Although it is thought that the people tested were given their results, local authority staff were not provided with contact-tracing information through the central system.
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