Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan
Almost 6,000 of the nearly 16,000 people in England who tested positive for Covid-19 but whose cases were not recorded for up to a week due to a technical error have not been reached for contact tracing purposes.
Speaking on Monday, the shadow health secretary said there were fears up to 48,000 people could have unwittingly spread coronavirus as they were not alerted to the fact they had come in to contact with someone who had tested positive.
Jonathan Ashworth said the error was "putting lives at risk".
As of Tuesday, some 37% of the almost 16,000 cases had still not been reached for contact tracing purposes, suggesting around 18,000 contacts (it is estimated each person comes in to contact with three others) who may need to self-isolate, have not been contacted.
It comes as infection rates continue to rise across the UK, with 12,594 new Covid cases reported on Monday, and a further 19 deaths.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted action had been taken "swiftly to minimise impact" but admitted the error "should never have happened".
The Department of Health dismissed reports of issues with phone lines hampering contact tracers’ efforts.
The Times newspaper said contact tracers had reported conversations disconnecting mid-call, but a spokesperson for the department said no such incidents had been reported either on Monday or over the weekend.
He said: “Every single person who tested positive was told their results and to self-isolate and we have already contacted over half of the affected cases for contact tracing purposes.”
A spokesperson for Ring Central, the system used to call people, said there had been “no outages” on its platform.
He said: “We understand that there have been reports of issues around the UK Covid-19 test-and-trace work over the weekend of October 3 and 4, 2020. RingCentral can confirm that there were no outages on our platform that could have affected these users.”
The late addition of the almost 16,000 cases to the UK's figures caused huge jumps in infection rates across the country.
Manchester’s rate soared, with 2,927 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 2 – the equivalent of 529.4 cases per 100,000 people.
Knowsley and Liverpool have the second and third highest rates, at 498.5 and 487.1 respectively.
Other areas recording big jumps in their seven-day rates include Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham and Leeds.
Sheffield’s rate shot up from 100.9 to 286.6 and figures from the University of Sheffield’s Covid-19 statistics web page showed nearly 500 students and staff had tested positive since the start of the autumn term last week.
Meanwhile MPs will vote on Tuesday on the regulations which enforce the rule of six in England in order to allow them to continue.
Boris Johnson has urged MPs to back the rule, with his official spokesman describing the ban on more than six people mixing as a “sensible and helpful” measure.
Elsewhere, US President Donald Trump, who revealed on Friday he had tested positive for the virus, left a military medical centre on Monday after three nights of treatment.
Shortly before his departure he had tweeted that he was “feeling really good” and “better than I did 20 years ago”.
He urged Americans: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life”.The virus has claimed more than 210,000 lives in the US, making it the country with the highest death toll in the world.