Covid-19: Test and trace 'failures' led to delay in hundreds in Blackburn with Darwen being told about Indian variant

Failings with the test and trace system led to a delay in hundreds being told they should have isolated after coming into contact with coronavirus, the government has admitted.

The glitch meant local councils, including Blackburn with Darwen, were not given the full data on the number of positive tests in their area - which may have led to the current surge in numbers.

Blackburn and Darwen Council had the highest number of 'missing cases', with almost 300 not told about the positive tests.

Kate Hollern, the MP for Blackburn has accused the Government of failing people in the town, after the glitch saw delays in contacting people to tell them to isolate.The Labour MP says the situation contributed to surging cases of the Indian variant in the town.

  • Kate Hollern MP, Labour, Blackburn

It is thought 700 cases across the country went unreported for three weeks between April and May - meaning people were not told they had tested positive and needed to self isolate.

Due to rapidly rising numbers of the B1617.2 mutation - known as the Indian variant - surge testing and extra vaccinations have been taking place in the Lancashire town.

Ms Hollern added the delay meant people could have been spreading the virus unknowingly - and blamed the government for not putting India on the red travel list sooner.

Blackburn with Darwen Council confirmed it had been affected by the test and trace glitch.

Councillor Mohammed Khan, Leader of the Council, said: "This situation has had an effect on the residents of our Borough.

However Councillor Khan added that the local contact tracing team had had "a lot of success" and were "working closely with the national Test and Trace team to manage any consequences".

He said: "The local Authority, community and voluntary sector and faith groups along with local businesses and the local NHS are all working flat out to do all we can to check the spread of this Variant of Concern.”

Blackpool's director of public health also confirmed the local authority was another of the eight impacted.

Dr Arif Rajpura said Blackpool "only had a very small number of cases that were not visible" via the central system, but that a low case rate in the resort meant "this technical glitch has not had an impact on the spread of the Indian variant here".

All those involved in the delay have now been contacted, the government said.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "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."

But the government refused to admit the failure had contributed to the spread of the variant, adding: "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."

Blackburn with Darwen has consistently recorded one of the highest rates of new Covid cases in the country following the variant's spread.

Some parts of the North West have the highest Covid rates in the country, with the region as a whole the only area to record a rise in numbers.

Bolton currently has a highest rate of new cases per 100,000 people, while Blackburn with Darwen is the second highest.

Six new vaccination sites have opened across East Lancashire to combat the spread of the new variant.

Two are in Blackburn, with sites also in Darwen, Accrington and Burnley.

Public Health teams say they will offer immunisation to those between 18 and 38 with underlying health conditions or who live, care for or work with anyone such a condition.

Surge testing has also been introduced in the three wards in Blackburn with Darwen where the Indian variant has been identified.

Meanwhile the Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been warned there could be "unrest" in Bolton if the Government brings in local lockdowns.