Rishi Sunak has confidence in test and trace chief after 'missing cases' scandal

6 October 2020, 08:24 | Updated: 6 October 2020, 10:06

By Asher McShane

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today told LBC that he has confidence in test and trace chief Dido Harding, despite a major glitch that saw nearly 16,000 coronavirus cases missed.

Mr Sunak told Nick Ferrari at breakfast that the testing scandal hadn’t impacted the progress of the virus but it should not have happened and that work was under way to fix the issue.

Rishi Sunak yesterday warned difficult choices would have to be made to save the economy
Rishi Sunak yesterday warned difficult choices would have to be made to save the economy. Picture: PA

Mr Sunak also said "yes, I do" when asked if he still has confidence in Baroness Harding.

“There should be accountability for all of us," he said. He added that it would not be appropriate to comment further as an investigation was under way.

A race is on to trace contacts of almost 8,000 positive coronavirus cases initially not recorded in England due to a technical glitch, as infection rates rise in northern university cities.

Some 49% of the almost 16,000 cases had still not been reached for contact tracing purposes as of Monday morning, following data issues over the weekend.

Addressing the House of Commons, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday the technical problem with the system "that brings together" data from NHS test sites and tests processed by commercial firms "should never have happened" but he insisted the team had "acted swiftly to minimise its impact".

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said problems with testing were "putting lives at risk" and that as many as 48,000 contacts may not have been traced due to the glitch.

The Department of Health dismissed reports of issues with phone lines hampering contact tracers' efforts.

Mr Sunak also said any suggestion that his 'eat out to help out' scheme was behind a surge in the virus "doesn't stack up."

"If you look at what's going on, we are seeing a rise in cases, a second wave.

"That's in common with most other countries around the world. If you look at France or Spain indeed our scientists said we are on exactly the same curve.

"What's happening here is what's happening in other countries as well.

"If you look at the south west where eat out to help out was used the most... the south west is now the region of the country with the lowest rates of coronavirus."