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COVID-19 infection rate more than doubles in some parts of England

Written by on 5 October 2020

The weekly rate of new COVID-19 cases have soared in dozens of areas of England following the addition of nearly 16,000 unreported cases, new figures show.

A technical glitch meant cases were missed off official figures last week after people who tested positive were not recorded once a master Excel spreadsheet reached its maximum size.

The updated figures show the coronavirus infection rate has more than doubled in some areas of England.

London’s COVID-19 cases made the biggest jump of 4,824 in the week from 24 September to 1 October, compared to a rise of 3,363 in the previous week, and 1,875 a week earlier, figures from the Press Association show.

However, that figure is equivalent to 51.8 cases per 100,000 people making the capital one of the areas with the lowest infection rates.

Outside of the capital, Manchester has the highest infection rate with a rise of 2,740 cases – the equivalent of 495.6 instances per 100,000 people.

It means the city’s infection rate has more than doubled in seven days from a rate of 223.2 cases per 100,000 people in the previous week.

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Liverpool has the second highest infection rate, up from 287.1 to 456.4 cases per 100,000. A total of 2,273 new cases were recorded in seven days.

Knowsley is in third place, up from 300.3 to 452.1, with 682 new cases.

Missing cases
Original figure
Actual total
25 September
957
6,874
7,831
26 September
744
6,042
6,786
27 September
757
5,693
6,450
28 September
0
4,044
4,044
29 September
1,415
7,143
8,558
30 September
3,049
7,108
10,157
01 October
4,133
6,914
11,047
02 October
4,786
6,968
11,754

The analysis, based on Public Health England data published on Sunday night, also shows sharp rises in Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Leeds and Sheffield.

Nottingham saw its infection rate more than quadruple from 52.0 to 283.9, with 945 new cases, and Sheffield’s more than doubled from 91.8 to 233.1, with 1,363 new cases in the time period.

In the capital, east London is the major hotspot with 249 confirmed cases in Redbridge, 1,234 in Newham, and 207 in Tower Hamlets.

There were significant rises in other areas like Richmond-upon-Thames where cases jumped by 142.

However, the rise in confirmed infections in London may be down to the extra testing which was introduced when it was declared an area of COVID-19 concern on 25 September.

It comes as scientists raised concerns that potentially thousands of people, who are contacts of those with COVID-19 who were left off the government’s list, may have spread the virus in the last week.

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‘We can’t change the past’: Coffey on ‘IT failure’

Public Health England (PHE) said the technical issue resulted in 15,841 cases between 25 September and 2 October being left out of the reported daily coronavirus cases.

The technical problem has also led to a delay in efforts by NHS Test and Trace to find the contacts of those who tested positive for the virus, in some cases by around a week.

PHE said the outstanding cases were transferred to NHS Test and Trace “immediately” after the issue was noted and all cases were passed on to tracers by 1am on Saturday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unable to say on Monday morning how many contacts of people who were COVID-positive had been missed.

Asked on Monday how many contacts of positive coronavirus cases had been missed as a result of the error, Mr Johnson said: “I can’t give you those figures. What I can say is all those people are obviously being contacted and the key thing is that everybody, whether in this group or generally, should self-isolate.”

He said the updated figures meant that the prevalence of the virus was where experts had expected it to be and it would soon be apparent if extra restrictions were having the intended impact.

“The incidence that we are seeing in the cases corresponds to pretty much where we thought we were,” he added.

Why the missing 15,841 COVID-19 cases will affect everyone

Why the missing 15,841 COVID-19 cases will affect everyone

“And, to be frank, I think that the slightly lower numbers that we’d seen, you know, didn’t really reflect where we thought the disease was likely to go, so I think these numbers are realistic.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the error was “shambolic”, adding that “people across the country will be understandably alarmed”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to make a Commons statement on Monday afternoon about the issue.