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An Excel error may have led England to under-report COVID-19 cases

A technical issue delayed the contact tracing of over 15,000 infections.

An Excel error may have led England to under-report COVID-19 cases

A day after the UK government announced its highest number of new coronavirus cases in England, the reason behind the drastic rise has reportedly been revealed. According to reports from Daily Mail, The Independent and Evening Standard, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet containing laboratory results reached its maximum size, meaning that as many as 15,841 cases between September 25th and October 2nd were not uploaded to the UK government’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Public Health England (PHE) has not confirmed that an Excel glitch was to blame, but instead cited a “technical issue” in its a “data load process” that allows officials to share positive test results online. Microsoft Excel spreadsheets can contain up to 16,384 new columns and 1,048,576 rows. While the exact nature of the issue isn't known, it's believed the limits are to blame.

PHE says that, while there was a delay in the reporting of COVID-19 cases, every positive result was conveyed to those infected, and they were instructed to self-isolate as necessary. All of the outstanding cases were transferred to the UK’s contact tracing platform by 1AM on October 3rd but such a delay in reporting may have set back the UK government’s "Test & Trace" efforts by over a week.