When does something become history that we learn to move past?

Probably not after a week.

Which is why Therese Coffey, secretary of state for work and pensions, has caused anger after saying a recent government mishap, which missed nearly 16,000 positive cases and failed to contact people who interacted with them after dismissing the error as “recent history” that the government “can’t change”.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Coffey was quizzed by Louise Minchin about the “technical error” that prevented the government publishing 15,841 additional cases of people testing positive between 25 September to the 2 October.

“What it means, and this is really important, isn’t it, is that others in close in contact with [people who tested positive] were not informed,” Minchin said to Coffey.

“So they could have been out and about, spreading the virus and they would have no idea,”.

Coffey replied:

I recognise that and we can’t change the recent history. 

PHE will make sure this sort of error won’t happen again but they did pick up this error and have acted quickly to rectify it. 

While the 15,841 people who tested positive were informed at the time, a failure in reporting the cases to the track-and-trace dashboard meant people who had contact with them weren’t informed of their positive status.

So Coffey’s response was seen as somewhat dismissive of the scale of the issue.

People weren’t impressed.

There was intense sarcasm on show.

Coffey’s framing of the situation was seen as underplaying the severity of it.

People pointed out that it wasn’t ‘history’ – it happened last week.

And she was accused of being ‘misleading’ about the organisation at fault.

Not a good start to the week.

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