The Daily Mail reported that an Excel glitch was to blame for thousands of coronavirus cases being missed off government figures and the internet has reacted with memes.
The Independent and other outlets have been unable to independently verify the Mail's claim. Indy100 has contacted Public Health England to ask whether the government does indeed store track and trace information in Microsoft Excel – software designed for creating spreadsheets, not enormous databases – and we'll update you if they respond.
Whether or not Excel is being used specifically, a "spreadsheet blunder" has resulted in nearly 16,000 positive test results being missed off government figures since 24 September. It is thought that the spreadsheet containing the results maxed out and was unable to automatically update, but this is as of yet unconfirmed. When asked about the error, Boris Johnson said:
Well, what happened here, was that some of the data got truncated and it was lost.
He was unable to say how many people who should have been warned that they may have come in contact with the virus weren't contacted as a result.
A Whitehall investigation has reportedly been launched to establish how exactly this error came about and additional contact tracers have been drafted to try to recover the contact information of people whose positive tests went unreported.
The error is the latest in a series of gaffes that have befallen the government's track and trace system, once hailed as "world beating".
People weren't too impressed...
The unconfirmed reports sent Twitter into a frenzy.
I don’t know where the government buys its software from, but I can get the latest version of Excel for less than £12 billion
— Dr Phil Hammond 💙 (@Dr Phil Hammond 💙)
Clippy even resurfaced to give the government some advice.
it looks like you've charged several billion but decided to do the work in Excel https://t.co/LAAcFcQ2yc
People are also awaiting a statement from the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to establish what exactly actually happened with the 'glitch'.
Although people responded to the news with an excellent array of memes, really, this is no laughing matter. Because track and trace data is supposed to help keep us safe from coronavirus and inform the government's lockdown strategy which affects us all.