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UPDATE 4-UK PM Johnson plays down technical failure of COVID-19 testing data system

Mon, 5th Oct 2020 07:35

* Daily COVID-19 cases jump to a record 22,961 on Sunday

* Glitch means 15,841 cases not uploaded

* Johnson: Soaring COVID-19 cases in line with forecasts

* Opponents say government's handling of virus is shambolic
(Adds Hancock comments)

LONDON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson sought on Monday to play down a failure in England's
COVID-19 testing data system that delayed 15,841 results, saying
the much higher updated figures were more in line with forecasts
of the outbreak's spread.

But the glitch is likely to cast further doubt over
Johnson's handling of the coronavirus pandemic: his Conservative
government's response has been cast by political opponents as
slow, poorly organised and confusing.

On Sunday, authorities reported a jump in daily COVID-19
cases to a record 22,961, after saying a technical issue had
meant that thousands of test results had not been transferred
into computer systems on time, including for contact tracers.

"The incidence that we're seeing in the cases really sort of
corresponds to pretty much where we thought we were," Johnson
said, speaking to reporters.

"To be frank, I think that the slightly lower numbers that
we'd seen didn't really reflect where we thought that the
disease was likely to go, so I think these numbers are
realistic," said Johnson.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament the technical
problem had not yet been resolved. "This incident should never
have happened," he said.

Johnson, who earlier this year promised a "world-beating"
test-and-trace system, has more recently said there have been
mis-steps but that the government has been confronted with the
biggest health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak.

"WINTER AHEAD"

Data published on Monday showed there were 12,594 new
positive COVID-19 test results - suggesting the upward trend of
cases seen before the discovery of the technical snag continues
unabated.

The number of COVID-19 patients in English hospitals also
rose to the highest level since late June, at 2,593.

"Now more than ever with winter ahead, we must all remain
vigilant and get this virus under control," Hancock said.

Public Health England said all people whose tests were the
subject of the glitch had been given their results in a timely
fashion, and that those who had tested positive had been told to
self-isolate.

Asked about a vaccine, Johnson said it felt like an
AstraZeneca project must be on the verge of one.
"We are working very very hard to get one," Johnson
said. "We are not there yet."

He added: "I went to see the scientists at Oxford at the
Jenner Institute, the AstraZeneca team - incredible what they're
doing. You know you really feel they must be on the verge of it,
but its got to be properly tested."
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, William James, Estelle
Shirbon, William Schomberg and Andy Bruce; editing by Kate
Holton, Michael Holden and Mark Heinrich)

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