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University cities like Sheffield, Leeds and Oxford face new local lockdowns


Parts of the UK – including a number of university towns – could face local lockdown within days of late test and trace data revealing belatedly rising numbers of infections – which would put the areas over the threshold for a new three-tier warning system.

Cities like Sheffield, Leeds and Oxford are among a dozen areas where coronavirus infections rose after the "computer glitch," meaning 16,000 cases were missed from Public Health England's reporting system.

According to the Telegraph, residents of Nottingham, which has two universities, should prepare for lockdown measures.

The city that hosts Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University was previously not on the government's Covid watch list.

However, the updated data shows that last week the city would have been one of the worst areas in the country compared to the pre-determined numbers.

The Department of Health insists the new numbers won't affect its watchlist or change the current restriction in the region, the paper said.

New figures today show that cases are skyrocketing in some of the north's largest cities.

Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Nottingham have all seen big leaps, in some cases to a rate of 500 cases per 100,000 people.

That sparked a new round of furious speculation yesterday over tougher local lockdowns, with the risk of further restrictions later this week.

The weekly rate in Manchester more than doubled to 2,927 in the week ending October 2 – that's nearly 530 cases per 100,000 people.

Parts of the UK - including a number of university towns - could face local lockdowns within days of belated test and trace data revealing belatedly rising infection rates - which would put the areas over the threshold for a new three-tier warning system

Parts of the UK – including a number of university towns – could face local lockdowns within days of belated test and trace data revealing belatedly rising infection rates – which would put the areas over the threshold for a new three-tier warning system

Manchester (pictured), Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Nottingham have all seen big leaps, in some cases to a rate of 500 cases per 100,000 people

Manchester (pictured), Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Nottingham have all seen big leaps, in some cases to a rate of 500 cases per 100,000 people

The Department of Health (pictured: Health Secretary Matt Hancock) insists the new numbers will not affect the watchlist or change the current restriction in the region

The Department of Health (pictured: Health Secretary Matt Hancock) insists the new numbers will not affect the watchlist or change the current restriction in the region

Cities like Sheffield, Leeds and Oxford are among a dozen areas where coronavirus infections rose after the "computer glitch," meaning 16,000 cases were missed from Public Health England's reporting system. Pictured: Executive Chair of NHS Track and Trace Baroness Dido Harding

Cities like Sheffield, Leeds and Oxford are among a dozen areas where coronavirus infections rose after the "computer glitch," meaning 16,000 cases were missed from Public Health England's reporting system. Pictured: Executive Chair of NHS Track and Trace Baroness Dido Harding

Data from thousands of “missing” cases showed the virus spread much faster than previously thought in cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield

Data from thousands of “missing” cases showed the virus spread much faster than previously thought in cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield

Another 33 deaths were announced today as the government is expected to unveil a new system to manage lockdown restrictions nationwide

Another 33 deaths were announced today as the government is expected to unveil a new system to manage lockdown restrictions nationwide

As infections continue to rise, stricter measures could be put in place in some of the UK's hardest hit areas than those that already affect millions

As infections continue to rise, stricter measures could be put in place in some of the UK's hardest hit areas than those that already affect millions

Covid contact tracer in the race to hunt down thousands of potentially infectious Britons after a missed fiasco

By Kate Pickles, Ben Spencer and Dan Martin for the Daily Mail

Covid contact tracers desperately tried to hunt down tens of thousands of potentially infectious Britons last night after the effects of the IT bug were exposed.

Ministers admitted yesterday that officials had managed to contact only half of the 16,000 who remained on the government's daily list of confirmed virus cases last week.

It is estimated that these people could have up to 50,000 potentially infectious contacts that need to be tracked down and isolated.

Ministers could not say yesterday how many of them had actually been contacted

This means that tens of thousands of people "fortunately don't know" that they are spreading the coronavirus.

Yesterday, an angry guilt game about the IT glitch broke out, which meant 15,841 positive test results were omitted from last week's official daily numbers for confirmed Covid cases.

Public Health England (PHE) admitted that it was its own fault, which – amazingly – was caused by an Excel spreadsheet reaching its maximum data size.

However, questions were also put to the Department of Health, the NHS test and trace system and its boss Dido Harding.

The bug has caused recorded virus levels to suddenly skyrocket in parts of the country and those "missing" cases suddenly added to local numbers.

The series escalated when an additional 12,594 confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported today. That brought the total number of cases in the UK to 515,571 while another 19 people lost their lives.

The fiasco – the most recent to affect the government's coronavirus response – has also damaged confidence in the already-beleaguered test-and-trace system.

Matt Hancock was forced to raise the issue in the House of Commons yesterday, blaming an outdated PHE computer system for the mishap. The mistake should never have happened.

The Minister of Health admitted that the "problem" had already been identified in July and was in the process of being replaced.

He told MPs, "This incident should never have happened, but the team acted quickly to minimize its impact. Now it is important that we work together to correct this and make sure it never happens again."

Efforts to catch up on contact tracing began first on Saturday. According to the MPs, an additional 6,500 hours of staff time were spent.

By yesterday morning, however, only 51 percent of the cases had been contacted a second time so that their contacts could be found.

Mr. Hancock insisted the data did not "materially" alter the chief medical officer's analysis of the spread of the coronavirus.

Liverpool wasn't far behind, with cases per 100,000 jumping from 306 to 487 in one week.

The cases in Sheffield nearly tripled, from just over 100 per 100,000 to 286. In Newcastle the rate rose from 268 to 435.

Many of the largest increases are in cities with large student populations.

Mr Hancock said campus outbreaks would not necessarily lead to tighter restrictions on the wider community if they could be contained.

Meanwhile, Covid contact tracers were desperately trying to hunt down tens of thousands of potentially infectious Britons last night after the effects of the IT bug were exposed.

Ministers admitted yesterday that officials had managed to contact only half of the 16,000 who remained on the government's daily list of confirmed virus cases last week.

It is estimated that these people could have up to 50,000 potentially infectious contacts that need to be tracked down and isolated.

Ministers could not say yesterday how many of them had actually been contacted

This means that tens of thousands of people "fortunately don't know" that they are spreading the coronavirus.

Yesterday, an angry guilt game about the IT glitch broke out, meaning 15,841 positive test results were omitted from last week's official daily numbers for confirmed Covid cases.

Public Health England (PHE) admitted it was its own fault, which – amazingly – was caused by an Excel spreadsheet reaching its maximum data size.

However, questions were also put to the Department of Health, the NHS test and trace system and its boss Dido Harding.

The bug has caused recorded virus levels to suddenly skyrocket in parts of the country and those "missing" cases suddenly added to local numbers.

The series escalated when an additional 12,594 confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported today. That brought the total number of cases in the UK to 515,571 while another 19 people lost their lives.

The fiasco – the most recent to affect the government's coronavirus response – has also damaged confidence in the already-beleaguered test-and-trace system.

Matt Hancock was forced to raise the issue in the House of Commons yesterday, blaming an outdated PHE computer system for the mishap. The mistake should never have happened.

The Minister of Health admitted that the "problem" had already been identified in July and was in the process of being replaced.

He told MPs, "This incident should never have happened, but the team acted quickly to minimize its impact. Now it is important that we work together to correct this and make sure it never happens again."

Efforts to catch up on contact tracing began first on Saturday. According to the MPs, an additional 6,500 hours of staff time were spent.

By yesterday morning, however, only 51 percent of the cases had been contacted a second time so that their contacts could be found.

Mr. Hancock insisted the data did not "materially" alter the chief medical officer's analysis of the spread of the coronavirus.

Professor Chris Whitty evaluated the updated data and found that there was no need to reevaluate local locks, he added.

Efforts to catch up on contact tracing began first on Saturday. According to the MPs, an additional 6,500 hours of staff time were spent

Efforts to catch up on contact tracing began first on Saturday. According to the MPs, an additional 6,500 hours of staff time were spent

Parts of England could be exposed to new lockdown measures under the new "Covid Alert" system within a few days – but the ministers are foregoing traffic light plans

Jason Groves, political editor for the Daily Mail

Parts of England could face draconian new lockdown measures within a few days if a local "Covid alert system" is planned.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to release details of the three-tier setup this week to help better understand the existing patchwork of restrictions.

Government sources said the top tier would include stricter restrictions than those currently on the millions of people living in the north and the Midlands.

A planned traffic light system is being redesigned after data from thousands of "missing" cases shows that the virus has spread much faster than previously thought in cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield. Ministers will meet in the coming days to see how far they should go.

However, options include closing pubs, restaurants, and movie theaters, banning social mixing outside of household groups, and restricting overnight stays. Sources declined to rule out the possibility that some cities could be placed on the top tier immediately, although death rates remain low.

The areas at the higher levels are given extra money to help them cope.

Sources said chief medical officer Chris Whitty had told ministers there was evidence that the second wave of the pandemic was more localized than the first.

The possibility was raised that national lockdown could be avoided if severe restrictions were imposed in the areas where cases are increasing.

Yesterday's new numbers showed cases are skyrocketing in some of the north's biggest cities. The weekly rate in Manchester more than doubled to 2,927 in the week ending October 2 – that's nearly 530 cases per 100,000 people.

Liverpool wasn't far behind, with cases per 100,000 jumping from 306 to 487 in one week. The cases in Sheffield nearly tripled from just over 100 per 100,000 to 286. In Newcastle the rate rose from 268 to 435.

Many of the largest increases are in cities with large student populations. Mr Hancock said campus outbreaks would not necessarily lead to tighter restrictions on the wider community if they could be contained.

But last night there was growing concern in the government that the virus was spreading so rapidly in parts of the north that further restrictions are inevitable.

In another reference to the growing north-south divide, Germany is now advising travelers to isolate them on their return home if they have visited restricted areas in northern England.

The ministers had planned a new traffic light system to make it easier to understand local barriers.

However, the approach was tacitly abandoned because of concerns that it could lead to complacency.

"The fear was that if people were told they lived in a green rated area, they would take it as a sign that they could carry on normally," a source said.

In the House of Commons, Mr. Hancock said yesterday, "It is important that our rules are clear at the local level so that the public can be sure of what they must do."

As part of the three-tier system, all existing local restricted areas are set to alarm level two, with similar restrictions when mixing indoors.

The rest of the country will be moved to the first level, and the British will be asked to follow existing guidelines and social distancing laws.

But Labour's shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said the situation was "beyond the pubic" and "life threatening".

Mr. Ashworth said: “Up to 48,000 contacts were not traced or isolated.

"Fortunately, thousands of people do not know they have been exposed to Covid and may be spreading this deadly virus at a time when hospital admissions are on the rise and we are in the second wave."

Experts warned it could take weeks to track down those potentially carrying the virus, while the fallout could be felt for months to come.

Rowland Kao, an expert on infectious disease dynamics at the University of Edinburgh, said technical errors in such systems are "always a risk" and more to be expected in the future.

He said, "While it would appear that they are now being contacted in a priority manner, this added burden on a system that has already reached its limit implies that further delays may arise in other cases where contact tracing is required."

PHE said that every single person initially tested had received their test result as usual, with any positive tests being asked to self-isolate.

In addition to underestimating the scale of the UK outbreak, the details were not critically shared with contact tracers, meaning people exposed to the virus were not tracked. It is not clear how this failure will play out, but it is feared that it will be very serious.

PHE officials said the open cases, which were first confirmed on Saturday, were forwarded to NHS Test and Trace "immediately" after the issue was resolved, and thanked contact tracers for their "extra efforts" over the weekend to clear the backlog to eliminate.

Meanwhile, there have been growing government concerns that the virus is spreading so rapidly in parts of the north that further restrictions are inevitable.

In another reference to the growing north-south divide, Germany is now advising travelers to isolate them on their return home if they have visited restricted areas in northern England.

In the meantime, parts of England could face draconian new lockdown measures within a few days as a local “Covid Alert System” is planned.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to release details of the three-tier setup this week to help make the existing patchwork of restrictions more understandable.

Government sources said the top tier would include stricter restrictions than those currently on the millions of people living in the north and the Midlands.

A planned traffic light system is being redesigned.

The ministers had planned the new traffic light system to make it easier to understand local barriers.

However, the approach has been tacitly abandoned as it could lead to complacency.

"The fear was that if people were told they lived in a green rated area, they would take it as a sign that they could carry on normally," a source said.

In the House of Commons, Mr. Hancock said yesterday: "It is important that our rules are clear at the local level so that the public can be sure of what they are supposed to be doing."

Ministers will meet in the coming days to see how far they should go.

However, options include closing pubs, restaurants, and movie theaters, banning social mixing outside of household groups, and restricting overnight stays.

Sources declined to rule out the possibility that some cities could be immediately placed in the top tier, although death rates remain low.

The areas at the higher levels are given extra money to help them cope.

As part of the three-tier system, all existing local restricted areas are set to alarm level two, with similar restrictions when mixing indoors.

The rest of the country will be moved to the first level, and the British will be asked to follow existing social distancing guidelines and laws – like the rule of six, curfew at 10 p.m., and wearing masks indoors.

A small number of cities could immediately be placed in the third tier, which requires much stricter restrictions.

New Test and Trace is whirling around as faulty phones thwart efforts to find 40,000 contacts from people who were missed from the database last week

NHS coronavirus contact tracers struggled yesterday to reach tens of thousands of potentially infectious people after phone lines crashed after an IT malfunction.

When employees tried to catch up on a backlog of calls to the 16,000 infectious people missing from the database – due to a bug caused by an outdated version of Microsoft Excel on Friday – the communications system began to overload.

Ring Central, the calling system used by NHS Test and Trace, reportedly cut off during the call and repeatedly banned employees from their profiles due to the volume of calls from tracers.

A contact tracer told The Times that the department had been plagued by "terrible IT problems," including locking the system out for "20 to 30 minutes" at a time.

She told the publication, "Ring Central keeps breaking down because of too many calls being made at the same time."

The phone line fiasco follows an eventful week of IT disruptions, as an outdated version of Microsoft Excel limited the amount of data that can be stored in a spreadsheet and excluded 15,841 people from the test and trace dashboard.

MPs in the north have complained that the current system of local lockdowns is confusing and sometimes arbitrary. They also call for an exit strategy.

Boris Johnson admitted yesterday that it was too early to tell if the plethora of recent restrictions took effect.

He said, "With all the things that have come in, we'll see if this works to fight the virus."

Public Health England's last weekly update on Friday, based on data slightly older than the PA analysis, shows that only nine out of 149 local authorities in England saw their infection rates decline last week. However, due to the computational flaw of PHE, infection rates may be higher in reality.

In Camden, London, cases fell the most in the week leading up to October 2. The infection rate – like many cases per 100,000 people per week – fell by 70 percent from 63 to 100,000 people to 18.7.

It now has the lowest infection rate of any 32 London boroughs, according to PHE's surveillance report, which takes into account the positive tests recorded between Sept. 21-27.

The 16,000 cases, not counted by PHE, occurred between September 25 and October 2.

Blackburn with Darwen, who is considered one of the coronavirus hotspots in England during the second wave of the pandemic, saw the infection rate drop by 20 percent in a week. In other restricted areas such as Blackpool, Bolton, Leicester and South Tyneside, infections were slowly falling.

In most of the north and Midlands' most places with stricter Covid-19 restrictions, which are banned from seeing friends and family at home or in the pub, cases have not gone down in several weeks, meaning it has It is unlikely that they will be exempted from the harsher conditions anytime soon.

Leicester, the first place in England to undergo a "local lockdown" in late June, has never been able to return to normal like the rest of England, although the infection rate almost halved from 140 to 89.

It even hit a low of 25 in early September.

It comes after ministers are asked to publish their criteria for deciding when an area has reached the lockdown threshold and when it can leave. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said lockdowns are like "Hotel California" because, like The Eagles' song, "Once inside, you can never leave."

Infection rates booming in areas under local lockdown fuel revolt – as the backlog raises questions about the validity of local measures

Ben Spencer, medical correspondent for the Daily Mail

Booming infection rates in areas that had been locked on-site for weeks last week sparked a growing revolt.

A sudden spike in cases sparked after a backlog was discovered over the weekend suggested the epidemic is spiraling out of control in much of the north.

The new numbers raise questions about the validity of local restrictions if they failed to suppress infection rates.

In Bolton, pubs and restaurants were closed to all but takeaway food and drink on September 7, when there were 92 cases for every 100,000 residents. The numbers in the city have now risen to 238 per 100,000.

Concern about the logic of the rules has increased and a quarter of the population is subject to local restrictions.

Nick Forbes, chairman of Newcastle Council, accused the government of "catastrophic failure" after seeing cases in the city three times since it was suspended a week ago. He said, "If we can't rely on the data we get from the government, how can we make these life-changing decisions and do what's best for our residents and businesses?"

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: "I certainly feel like we have reached a turning point this week. The government is really in danger of losing the public in the north of England."

Last week, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston warned they would not adhere to the restrictions but will trace back later.

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