James O'Brien caller on 16,000 missing cases: 'I suggest Government updates its software'

5 October 2020, 14:02 | Updated: 5 October 2020, 14:07

By Fiona Jones

This caller told James O'Brien that the technical glitch meaning almost 16,000 cases were unreported was "definitely incompetence" and suggested the Government tries updating the spreadsheet software.

Public Health England has apologised after a technical glitch meant nearly 16,000 cases of coronavirus went unreported.

A staggering 15,841 cases between 25 September and 2 October were left out of the UK daily case figures, it has transpired.

The problem was reportedly caused by an Excel spreadsheet reaching its maximum file size, which stopped new names being added in an automated process. The files have now been split into smaller multiple files to prevent the issue happening again.

James O'Brien put this to those who know much more about databases than himself and received pretty unanimous verdicts.

Caller Terry told James, "I think this is definitely incompetence. The reason for that is you can now go down to a million lines on Excel and you can go across to xxx number of columns.

"So first thing is it looks like they're using old software," he said, explaining to James that the Government may be using an old version of the Excel software.

He explained that if the software had the limit of only a certain amount of entries "and someone wasn't concentrating" then 16,000 test results could easily be left off without being noticed.

"You go in there, you do copy paste, you get 64,000 lines, you put your thumbs up and think great," Terry said, "it really doesn't take a genius to know that if you've got ten lines and you put 11 lines in, there isn't going to be an eleventh or twelfth line."

James summarised that it was "categorically human incompetence" that led to this situation.

"I would suggest to the Government who are spending billions and billions of pounds of our money for fun at the moment that they just contact Microsoft and update their software to the latest version," Terry said.