Covid NHS Test and Trace technical glitch had 'no impact on spread of Indian variant' in Blackpool, says health boss

A top resort doctor said only a "very small number" of cases went unrecorded in the town during a technical glitch on the Test and Trace system between April and May.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 4:14 pm

It comes as the BBC revealed a report had said "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."

Blackpool was one of eight local authority areas in England affected by a "technical glitch" in the system.

Between April 21 and May 11, the system only provided details of a limited number of positive cases of Covid to the affected council areas.

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Dr Arif Rajpura, Blackpool Council's director of public health.
Dr Arif Rajpura, Blackpool Council's director of public health.

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Covid Test and Trace failure in towns including Blackpool 'helped Indian variant...

The report showed that "the rapid spread of Indian variant cases... may be partially or largely attributable to risks in the international travel control system", and "these were exacerbated by the sporadic failure of the national Test and Trace system."

Some 734 positive tests in England had not been reported between April 21 and May 11, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

But Dr Arif Rajpura, Blackpool Council's director of public health, said the glitch had not impacted the spread of the Indian variant of the virus in the resort.

He said: "Blackpool only had a very small number of cases that were not visible on the national Test and Trace System to our local contact tracing team during this period.

“Cases during this time were already low in Blackpool and due to our public health team having a well-established outbreak management team in place, we were made aware of cases through different sources and systems and were able to contact and trace our small number of local residents who had contracted Covid.

"So this technical glitch has not had an impact on the spread of the Indian variant here."

Meanwhile, Downing Street has since denied that a NHS Test and Trace delay in alerting local authorities in hotspot areas to positive cases helped contribute to the spread of the Indian variant.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “In this specific instance, all positive cases were contacted and told to self-isolate for 10 days.

“As you know, there was a short delay when asking some of those positive cases to provide details of individuals they had contacted since contracting Covid.

“This issue was across a small number of local authority areas and was quickly resolved.”

Asked whether the Government accepted the failure contributed to the spread of the variant, the spokesman said: “The spread of the variant will be down to a number of factors – this was an issue that occurred across a small number of local authority areas, so I don’t think it is possible to draw that conclusion from this.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "A small number of contacts of positive cases experienced a temporary delay in getting a message from NHS Test and Trace.

"NHS Test and Trace has contacted over 10 million people since the start of the pandemic, dramatically reducing the potential spread of the virus.

"A small number of contacts of positive cases experienced a temporary delay in getting a message from us recently but it was resolved quickly. All individuals were contacted and instructed to self-isolate for 10 days."

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