Almost 55,000 Covid-infected people in England have not received their positive test results since the start of the second wave because they have not filled in all the paperwork or gave incorrect details, official data has revealed.
NHS Test and Trace figures showed 54,551 coronavirus-positive patients have not provided any communication details such as email addresses and mobile numbers since the £22billion scheme launched at the end of May.
It comes amid a frantic search for a case of the Brazilian variant, after one person was found to be infected with the strain but left no contact details. No10 insisted it was ‘very rare’ for patients to not leave contact details when handing over a swab for testing.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight called on anyone who was tested between February 12 and 13 but not received their test results to come forward — as ministers battled to root out the hidden case.
Labour said the problem — which first emerged in May — should have been fixed months ago, and the Liberal Democrats said the data proved there were ‘too many holes’ in the contact-tracing scheme.
Dr Gabriel Scally, a public health expert and member of Independent Sage, said the figures were ‘extremely disappointing’ but ‘in keeping with what we know about the poor performance of Test and Trace’.
The failure means tens of thousands of infected people have been allowed to carry on with their day-to-day lives, potentially spreading the virus further.
The cases may be related to home-testing kits, which patients must spend 10 to 15 minutes registering online with their contact details before posting.
‘Anyone who does not register will not receive their test results,’ the Department of Health says in its instructions for using the kits.
It is also possible to sign up for Covid tests at walk-in and drive-through centres using fake emails, phone numbers and addresses — but this leaves officials with contact details.
A tester working in the South East told MailOnline it was ‘practically impossible’ to get tests at the sites without handing over contact details.
‘They would literally need someone on the inside if they wanted to hand over fake details and then receive their results,’ they said.
Department of Health bosses told MailOnline the figure included home testing kits as well as swabs taken in person where an incorrect email and mobile number were given.
Officials did not explain how it is possible for someone to book a test without giving a mobile number or email address.
Dr Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England, told a Downing St press conference tonight it was ‘extremely rare’ for an individual to get a swab without also providing contact details.
She suggested the current missing case of the Brazilian variant could be linked to surge-testing, when someone has been swabbed but failed to complete an online form to register to get their test results.
Almost 55,000 people in England have never received their positive test result, data from Test and Trace has revealed. Above is a woman receiving a testing kit today in Stoke Gifford, England
It is thought the missing tests are linked to home test kits, because these must be registered before they are returned. A Covid tester told MailOnline it was ‘impossible’ to get tested without handing over details at walk-in and drive-thru sites
It comes amid concern over the Brazilian variant after six cases were found in the UK. The Government is still yet to identify the sixth individual because there were no contact details attached to the sample
The hunt for flight LX318: Authorities race to trace 136 people who flew to the UK with Brazil variant carrier as mystery patient who tested positive WEEKS ago remains at large
Officials were tonight scrambling to contact more than 130 people who shared a flight to the UK with the carrier of the new Brazilian coronavirus variant last month.
Ministers attempted to downplay the significance of half a dozen people in the UK testing positive for the new strain as Boris Johnson said his roadmap out of lockdown – which begins with schools reopening next Monday – would not be delayed.
In all six cases of the P.1 variant first detected in the Amazonian city of Manaus have been confirmed in Britain – three in England and three in Scotland.
Two were tracked to South Gloucestershire but the third English case has not been located and could be anywhere in the nation because they failed to fill in personal details when they were tested for Covid.
Authorities are also tracking 136 people who were on Swissair flight LX318 that arrived at Heathrow from Sao Paulo, via Zurich, on February 10.
One of the know cases of P.1 was on the flight, which arrived only five days before arrivals from Brazil became required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 nights.
None of the known cases was discovered at a quarantine hotel.
Tonight Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the Government’s border arrangements, arguing that home quarantine measures were already in place and travel restrictions on Brazil had been imposed before the hotel policy was implemented.
But these tests aren’t included in Test and Trace figures, according to reports.
No10 yesterday announced they had identified six cases of the Brazilian P1 variant through genome sequencing — two in South Gloucestershire and three in Aberdeen.
The sixth has not been found because the patient left no contact details when they took the test.
Boris Johnson today insisted the Brazil variant will not derail his lockdown ‘roadmap’ as he vowed a ‘massive effort’ to stop it spreading further.
Public Health England said it is working with the postal service try and track where the kit had been sent.
A Government spokesman insisted that cases where they have no contact details happen ‘very occasionally’.
‘Every effort is underway to locate this person and in the meantime’, they said.
‘It is important people come forward for testing, continue to follow the restrictions in place and stay at home whenever possible.’
Test and Trace data showed there were 1,312 positive coronavirus results in the most recent week, to February 17, that were not sent to patients because they had no contact details attached.
The week before there were 1,415 such incidents, and before that there were a further 2,100. There has been almost 19,000 this year alone.
Test and Trace has been dogged by problems since it was set up, with experts saying it has had a ‘minimal’ impact on the spread of the virus despite its hefty price tag.
The system’s boss Baroness Dido Harding was hauled before the Commons after a failure to ramp up capacity over summer led to unwell Britons being asked to travel 200 miles to get swabbed for the virus at the start of the academic year.
Layla Moran, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus, told MailOnline the figures show how Test and Trace has ‘too many holes’.
‘For months (we) have been warning that the Government’s £22billion Test and Trace system has too many holes in it,’ she said.
‘One escaped case of a dangerous variant is one too many.
‘I urge the Government to stop dithering and implement the key recommendations we’ve made which include requiring every person who comes into the country to quarantine as well as payments for everyone isolating regardless of income.
Surge testing has been launched in South Gloucestershire, where two cases were found, and Aberdeen, where three cases were found
BRITAIN’S COVID JAB DRIVE TO GO AT TWICE THE SPEED IN MARCH, MINISTER SAYS
Britain’s Covid inoculation rollout could go at twice its current speed over the next three months, No10’s vaccine minister claimed today.
Nadhim Zahawi promised March will be a ‘very big month’ for the programme, which slowed down in February because vaccine manufacturers struggled to keep pace with the NHS’s demand.
But with supply issues resolved and tens of millions more jabs becoming available in March, the health service is planning to turbocharge the drive, which must go smoothly if Britain has any hopes of leaving lockdown in the next few months.
Boris Johnson has laid out his ambition to vaccine all over-50s – half of the UK population – at least once by April 15, and to offer a jab to every adult in Britain by the end of July.
The UK this weekend hit the milestone of vaccinating 20million people and England today expanded the scheme to officially invite everyone aged 60 or over to come forward.
If the programme can work double-time in March, it could mean those who got their first vaccines in December and early January could get their top-up jab while giving the NHS room to inoculate another 20million people.
Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast today: ‘March will be a very big month for us. We’ll probably going to be twice the rate over the next 10 weeks as we have done over the past 10 or 11 weeks.’
‘This Brazilian variant has the potential to derail the tentative steps forwards we’ve taken so far and further reinforces why we need to keep cases as low as possible to avoid more of these variants emerging.’
Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow health minister, slammed the system for failing to resolving the problem sooner.
‘From the start of the Test and Trace programme there has always been a significant minority of people who never entered the system in the first place because they didn’t put correct details in,’ he told MailOnline. ‘This should have been fixed months ago.’
On the emergence of the Brazilian Covid variant on British soil, he added: ‘While the country is still making massive sacrifices it is unforgivable that we could end up back at square one because of a failure to properly secure our borders.
‘Ministers urgently need to ensure that we have a sufficiently robust system to stop new strains coming in, monitoring and containing their emergence, and stopping the spread amongst the population.’
Dr Scally, who was previously the public health director for the South West, told MailOnline the performance figures ‘clarifies the need’ to shore-up the system.
‘It makes it totally clear that we need a really well run locally based testing system, so we can find cases and knock on doors if needs be,’ he said.
‘This really undermines the whole system because to have a high level of cases where the result isn’t delivered to the person… they may think there’s nothing wrong and they’re alright whereas in fact they may be very infectious.’
He also urged ministers to test close contacts of positive cases, to root out every infection with the disease.
Experts fear the variant may be able to dodge antibodies, which are disease-fighting proteins triggered by past infection and vaccines.
But scientists have said the jabs are unlikely to be rendered useless because other parts of the immune system – including T-cells – will likely still be able to fight it off.
They add that everyone should get the jabs as all the evidence shows they decrease the risk of becoming hospitalised or dying with the disease.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are doing everything we can to reach contacts and continually improve the Test and Trace service.
‘The latest figures show NHS Test and Trace has successfully reached 93.6 per cent of the contacts of positive cases, with 98 per cent being contacted within 24 hours.
‘More than 9.1 million cases and contacts have been reached and told to self-isolate by contact tracers so far – making a real impact in breaking chains of transmission.
‘We are also combining local expertise with the data and resources of NHS Test and Trace, with more than 310 local authorities joining forces with us to launch local tracing partnerships. This will help us go further in supporting people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and tracing their recent contacts.’