Politics latest news: Half of contacts from 16,000 missing cases traced since 'glitch' discovered, says Matt Hancock - watch live

Cat Neilan

Just over half of the positive cases have been contacted so that tracing can begin, Matt Hancock has said - but he declined to put a number on how many people have not been self-isolating as a result of lost data. 

The Health Secretary said contact tracing had begun "first thing Saturday", with 6,500 hours of extra contact tracing taking place over the weekend.  As of 9am this morning, 51 per cent of the 16,000 missing coronavirus extra cases have now been contacted a second time. 

"This incident should never have happened but the team has acted swiftly to minimise its impact, and now it is critical that we work together to put this right and make sure it never happens again," said Mr Hancock.  

But Labour's shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said he was "putting lives at risk", adding Mr Hancock "should apologise".

He added: "As 48,000 contacts not traced and not isolating. Thousands of people blissfully unaware they've been exposed to Covid potentially spreading this deadly virus at a time when hospital admissions are increasing and we're in the second wave.

"This isn't just a shambles, it's so much worse than this and it gives me no comfort to say it, but it's putting lives at risk and he should apologise when he responds."

Read the latest updates below

04:03 PM

Have your say on: Who is to blame for the latest testing chaos?

We've heard from Matt Hancock, and the Health Secretary continues to answer questions from angry MPs in the House.  

Mr Hancock conspicuously praised the work of Public Health England officials - putting him at odds with Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, who this morning shifted the blame onto the body. 

Downing Street said earlier today that they still had the confidence of Dido Harding, despite her heading the bodies.

She of course reports to Matt Hancock, whose plan to merge the systems was meant to produce more joined-up working. 

So who is to blame for this latest error? Have your say in the poll below. 

03:52 PM

Matt Hancock dodges question about whether missing test data might prompt further lockdowns

Asked if there will be any further local lockdowns on the basis of the lost data, Matt Hancock says it is not that straightforward. 

There is no "simplistic threshold", he says, because there might be a confined outbreak that does not spread to the wider community. 

That has to be taken into account, alongside test positivity. 

But he doesn't answer the question. 

03:49 PM

Vaccine prioritisation list to be based on 'clinical advice', says Matt Hancock

Greg Clark asks about vaccines, another big story from today. 

Matt Hancock says it is a big logistical challenge but the decision on who will be prioritised will be made on "clinical advice". 

That will be updated as more data comes through from the vaccine trial, he adds. 

03:48 PM

SNP health spokesperson warns that 50-60,000 contacts not identified after missing cases

Philippa Whitford, the SNP's health spokesperson, asks if the underlying problem was because of the rapid rise of cases, and why this was not anticipated. 

She also points to the fact that no cases were registered through Test & Trace and give contact details. "This would represent 50-60,000 contacts who weren't identified... and continue to spread the virus."

She asks what time scale he hopes to reach all the contacts. 

Matt Hancock replies by saying the Chief Medical Officer has analysed the new data and "based on JBC analysis, the CMO's advice is that the assessment of the disease and its impact has not substantially changed. THat is because just under 16, 000 cases were evenly spread

He adds: "It has not changed the shape of the epidemic, just the level."

He repeats that contacts are reached "immediately" but does not respond to her figures. 

03:44 PM

Lighthouse Labs 'overwhelmed' by demand, says Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt then asks if the "underlying problem" is that Lighthouse Labs have been "overwhelmed" and will continue to be so. 

The former frontbencher says: "This is a situation ahead of winter, ahead of the second wave, when we do need to think about whether these structures are right for what we have to deal with. "

Matt Hancock says the "challenge was in a system that integrates the two". 

But the broader point is about using the capacity to great effect, he says. 

03:40 PM

Problems caused by 'legacy PHE system', says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock responds to "factual questions", saying contacts are being traced "concurrently" with the positive individuals being reached. 

He says the problem emerged in a "legacy PHE system" which they had decided to replace in July. A new data system was commissioned in August, and the upgrade is underway. 

The Health Secretary again thanks PHE staff for "working to resolve this issue over the weekend". 

All cases will be contacted as soon as possible, he says. 

03:37 PM

Matt Hancock is 'putting lives at risk', says Labour's Jon Ashworth

Jon Ashworth is on the attack, telling Matt Hancock he is "putting lives at risk and he should apologise when he responds". 

The shadow health secretary told the Commons: "This isn't just a shambles, it is so much worse." 

The Labour frontbencher rattles through a list of questions including how long it will be before the rest of the positive cases are contacted, and how many people are now self-isolating on the basis of those who have been contacted. 

He asks why it took so long before it became public, noting that the Prime Minister had discussed it during his interviews yesterday morning. 

Mr Ashworth also asks when it will be fully resolved and asks him to confirm whether it because of the size of files involved. 

"Why are critical databases in a national pandemic hosted on Excel spreadsheets," he adds.  Mr Hancock is "ultimately responsible", he adds. 

03:32 PM

Loss of 16,000 test results has not 'substantially changed' CMO's analysis, says Matt Hancock

The loss of test data has not "substantially changed" the Chief Medical Officer's analysis of how coronavirus is travelling through the UK, Matt Hancock has said. 

It has "not impacted the basis on decisions about which local action was taken last week," he added. 

The nearly 16,000 positive test results were not included in last week's data, but have since been added to the public dashboard, the Health Secretary said. 

The Joint Biosecurity Centre has updated its analysis and Prof Chris Whitty has assessed this, Mr Hancock said. 

"Nevertheless this is a serious issue and is being investigated fully," he added. 

03:28 PM

More than half of cases contacted a second time after results were lost, Matt Hancock says

Matt Hancock has blamed a "failure in the  automated transfer of files" between labs and Public Health England for the lost of 15,841 positive test results. 

This was discovered on Friday night and officials have been working since to resolve the problem, he tells MPs. 

Contact tracing has been taking place since first thing Saturday, he says. In total there have been 6,500 hours of extra tracing over the weekend.

As of 9am today, 51 per cent of cases have been contacted a second time for contact tracing purposes, he confirms.

Care homes are unaffected because they have regular testing anyway. 

Matt Hancock in the Commons - PA
Matt Hancock in the Commons - PA

03:23 PM

Government attacked for 'catastrophic failure' after losing 16,000 cases

The leader of Newcastle City Council has blasted the Government's "catastrophic failure" to keep on top of Test and Trace data, which has seen cases spike without being detected. 

The Labour leader Nick Forbes said ministers" must act quickly to address this failure", with Boris Johnson unable to confirm how many close contacts had been missed by the data loss.

"This is yet another catastrophic failure from an incompetent government that is moving recklessly from one avoidable disaster to another," said Mr Forbes.  "Lots of people haven't been traced in time and I hope that doesn't mean the city will face yet further restrictions as a result.

"It is essential we have the right data at the right time in order for us to protect our residents, support our businesses and enable our region to recover from this pandemic."

The council said that the data set it received on Friday showed a per 100,000 rate of 235 for the city, but the current data shows that rate was 376 per 100,000 for the same period.

It said the overall positive case rate is now more than 400 per 100,000 between September 27 and October 3.

03:20 PM

Further 12,594 cases reported in UK, official figures show

Ahead of Matt Hancock's statement to the Commons, the Government has confirmed a further 12,594 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 515,571.

The Government also said a further 19 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday. This brings the UK total to 42,369.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have now been nearly 57,900 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

03:19 PM

Airport testing announcement coming 'shortly', says Grant Shapps

An announcement on coronavirus testing for international travellers will be made shortly, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

He told the Conservative Party conference that a period of quarantine would still be required for travellers arriving from countries without a travel corridor, but testing could limit that.

Mr Shapps said it was more complicated than simply testing people as they arrived at airports as that would only pick up around seven per cent of asymptomatic cases.

"The way to do that is to still have a period of quarantine but also test and be able to release people," he said.

"I will be saying more about that shortly."

Over the weekend, Steve Barclay said that Mr Shapps would be making an announcement "in the coming days" but it seems like he is not ready just yet.

03:04 PM

I don't want Boris Johnson's job and I'll tell you why, says Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has said he "definitely" does not want the keys to Number 10, after he heaped praise on Boris Johnson during today's virtual Conservative party conference. 

Speaking for the first time as Chancellor, he sought to quell Westminster rumours of a rift between the Downing Street neighbours, telling the InHouse Lounge session the pair were "personally" close and that his children played with the Downing Street dog Dilyn. 

"He trusted me with this job which I am very grateful to him for, and he and I have a close personal friendship, and that spreads through the teams. There is an enormous amount of mutual trust between our teams. So as a building it operates really well, which I think is really important," he said. 

But despite Mr Sunak surging ahead Boris Johnson in the opinion polls, he stressed he did not want the top job after "seeing what the Prime Minister has to deal with".

He added: "This is a job hard enough for me to do."

02:58 PM

Ursula von der Leyen cancels trip to Greece over self-isolation

Ursula von der Leyen has posted a video of herself saying she is having to cancel a trip to Greece this week - which is presumably more of an opportunity for her to A) show that she is following the rules and B) actually healthy than a genuine message to the people of Athens. 

In something of an understatement the European Commission president said "coronavirus is making things difficult".

"I'm now in self isolation. I am very sorry, and I promise to visit Greece as soon as the situation allows it," she added.

Earlier today she confirmed that she had "tested negative again" but would "continue my self-isolation until tomorrow evening, as foreseen by the regulations in force".

02:52 PM

Ben Habib: It will be a dereliction of duty if Boris Johnson fails to take back control of our fishing

When commentators belittle the importance of fishing to the UK they are missing the point. It may be the industry is a tiny fraction of our GDP but it used to underpin 100pc of the GDP of our coastal towns. Brexit offers the opportunity of taking back our fish and so dramatically increasing this fraction and reversing their fortunes. Fishing could never match the contribution to GDP made by the City but it could do a great deal more good for many more people right across the UK. 

It has been over four years since we voted to leave the EU. That is ample time for the government to have prepared to take back control of our waters. 

As Ben Habib argues, these people have been ignored for over forty years. They are out of sight of London and have no currency at Westminster. Their plight is nothing short of tragic.

02:44 PM

Long Covid guidance being drawn up

New guidance is being drawn up which aims to reduce inconsistencies in care for patients who have long Covid.

Those suffering with so-called long Covid have reported breathlessness, chronic fatigue, brain fog and other complications including issues with the heart, lungs, kidneys and musculoskeletal problems - months after initially falling ill with the virus.

People have reported persistent symptoms of Covid-19 regardless of how ill they were initially or whether they were admitted to hospital.

Now the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (Sign) have said that new guidance is being drawn up to help guide the care for people who suffer long-term complications.

Long Covid seems rare in those under 18 and over 65, with higher prevalence among those of working age.

The median age of those affected is 45 and it affects women more than men.

02:36 PM

Cabinet minister defends pub curfew in face of growing Tory unease

A Cabinet minister has defended the Government's 10pm curfew, ahead of another looming rebellion on Wednesday. 

The measure was "designed to strike the balance of allowing people to continue to socialise while reducing social contact and minimising negative impacts on the economy", Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told the Commons. 

Chris Green, the Conservative MP for Bolton West, had challenged the minister over the curfew, suggesting it be tweaked to make 10pm last orders "to enable a safe exit from pubs and restaurants as people leave and perhaps use public transport?" 

But Mr Jenrick replied: "The requirement for pubs and some other businesses to be closed to the general public by 10pm was designed to strike the balance of allowing people to continue to socialise while reducing social contact and minimising negative impacts on the economy.

"He will know that we don't take these decisions lightly and none of us would want that to continue a day longer than is necessary, and as with all measures we'll keep them under constant review."

02:27 PM

Tom Harris: Will Labour's support for lockdown come back to bite Keir Starmer?

You can almost hear the relief in the voices of Labour frontbenchers. No longer do they have to appear on the morning radio shows, ostensibly to talk about their specific shadow cabinet responsibilities, only to have to deal with the question, “Do you want Jeremy Corbyn to be prime minister?”

So, one major obstacle to Labour’s electability has been sent packing to the back benches. And the front bench has been reinvigorated by a new sense of purpose, released from their obligation to campaign for a leader they vehemently opposed. New and previously overlooked talent has been welcomed in from the cold while those who had achieved shadow cabinet status solely on the basis of other people’s refusal to serve have been dispatched. Labour, in parliament at least, is as united as it has been at any time since 2010.

But that still leaves Covid-19 and the greatest crisis facing the country since World War II. And Labour still isn’t making the weather. If the party’s core message isn’t getting through, could that be because no one really knows what that message is?

02:17 PM

Boris Johnson urges MP to back 'rule of six' ahead of key Commons vote

Boris Johnson has urged MPs to back the "rule of six" measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus ahead of a Commons vote.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the ban on more than six people mixing was a "sensible and helpful" measure.

There has been mounting unease within Tory ranks about restrictions on people's liberties and Mr Johnson has acknowledged some people are "furious" with the Government.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "You have heard him talk a lot in recent days about the steps that we have had to take. You've heard the PM say - as he did yesterday - that he understands some of the frustrations that people have.

"But as the Prime Minister he has to take a course of action that prevents the further spread of the virus and therefore protects the NHS and protects lives.

"What we are seeking to do is get the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods, which is why we are also trying to keep as much of the economy moving as we can."

MPs will vote on Tuesday on the regulations which enforce the rule of six in England in order to allow them to continue.

The spokesman said: "Parliament has supported the measures which we have put in place so far in the fight against coronavirus and we would urge MPs to continue to do so."

02:02 PM

Freedom of movement bill defeated in the Lords

The Government's flagship immigration legislation that will end EU freedom of movement rules in the UK has suffered its first defeat in the Lords.

Peers backed by 304 votes to 224, majority 80, a Labour-led demand for an independent review into the impact of the change on social care amid warnings it could fuel staff shortages and deepen the crisis facing the sector, already wrestling with Covid-19.

It was one of three votes deferred on the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill from last week, following technical problems with the upper chamber's remote electronic voting system, introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The defeat raises the prospect of a legislative tussle known as parliamentary ping pong, where a bill is passed between the two Houses.

As well as ending free movement, the legislation will also pave the way for a new points-based immigration system.

01:55 PM

Stanley Johnson 'slipped up' after breaching face mask rules - again

Boris Johnson's father has admitted he "slipped up" after being photographed again breaching rules on wearing masks, this time at a London Underground station.

After the photograph was published, showing him at a Bakerloo line station with his mask under his nose, Stanley Johnson insisted he was unaware that rules also applied when standing on the platform.

When informed that doing so was required on all areas of the London Underground, he told PA: "I have certainly been absolutely wearing a mask on the Underground trains and public transport and so on. I don't notice that everybody wears masks on the platform.

He added: "I have certainly got my mask on the platform, I agree it is below my nose.

"This has been a fast learning curve for me and I'm certainly grateful for the vigilance of my fellow travellers," he added.

"Thanks to all of you for sending photographs of me every time I appear in public. I am really taking a huge, huge... I'm taking this very seriously," he added.

Downing Street said the coronavirus rules should be followed by everyone.

"As I said last week, the Prime Minister is very clear that everyone needs to follow the guidance on hands, face, space - the rules apply to all of us."

Asked whether Mr Johnson should face a fine, the spokesman added: "It's not for me to advise the police in relation to individual cases, that's not how it works in this country."

01:39 PM

Government 'committed' to A-levels and GCSEs taking place next year

The Government is "committed" to A-levels and GCSEs going ahead next year, Downing Street has said after a five schools organisations submitted a series of contingency planning proposals for next summer's exams. 

The proposals - from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), school leaders' union NAHT, the National Education Union (NEU), the NASUWT teachers' union, and the National Governance Association (NGA) - have been submitted to schools minister Nick Gibb ahead of a meeting today.

The document says: "It is highly likely that some students will have to self-isolate in May and June 2021 due to local or national outbreaks. These students must be able to gain their qualifications they deserve.

"In addition, some students may suffer very significant disruption to their studies this year if they are out of school or college for several periods because of illness, self-isolation or local closures."    

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We are committed to the exams going ahead next year. We are working with Ofqual and the exam boards on our approach, recognising the disruption they have experienced over the last academic year.

"We will continue to work with schools and colleges, Ofqual and the exam boards to ensure that the exams that take place in 2021 are fair."

01:23 PM

Lobby latest: Huge amount of planning work in place for vaccine distribution, says Downing Street

Downing Street said there is an "enormous amount of planning and preparation in place" for the distribution of a vaccine.

"The priority will be the most vulnerable groups and we take advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on which groups should get the vaccine, based on these factors and we keep it under review," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

"We have secured early access to over 360 million vaccine doses through the agreements that we have with several separate vaccine developers at various stages of the trials.

"We have invested over £140 million into manufacturing any successful vaccine, so there is an enormous amount of planning and preparation in place across government to be able to quickly roll out the vaccine."

Asked whether Boris Johnson would like everyone to be vaccinated, the spokesman said: "We will take advice from the JCVI on who should get the vaccine.

"At the moment the priority list they have set out is based on preliminary information about the vaccines in development and we keep it under review."

01:18 PM

Further 10 people die with coronavirus in English hospitals

A further 10 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 30,176, NHS England said on Monday.

Patients were aged between 67 and 91 years old. All but one 85-year-old patient had underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between October 1 and October 3. Most were on or after October 2.

One other death was reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

01:11 PM

Lord's cricket ground: Ian Botham made a peer

England cricketing hero Sir Ian Botham has taken his seat in the House of Lords.

The Brexit-backing Baron Botham wore the traditional scarlet and ermine-trimmed robe for the brief formal introduction ceremony.

He swore the oath of allegiance to the Queen as part of the ceremony.

Technical problems delayed the start of proceedings in the Lords, which prompted the Lord Speaker Lord Fowler to joke "rain has stopped play".

01:04 PM

Restrictions will be relaxed when Test and Trace can 'do its job', says Rishi Sunak

Restrictions on businesses can be relaxed when the virus is under control and when Test and Trace "is able to do its job", the Chancellor has said

Asked about the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants being relaxed in time for Christmas in an interview after his Tory conference speech, Rishi Sunak said: "Of course we understand, everyone knows how important Christmas is to all of us, to our families, as you say we want to have a good time.

"We've got to keep control of the virus and that's the priority right now but as the PM says 'a stitch in time saves nine' and that's what we're trying to do, take action early to hope that then in time we are in a position where we can look at things.

"No one wants to have these restrictions in place. We have to have them whilst the virus is spreading but when we can get it under control, when test, track and trace is able to do its job, then that allows us to be more flexible."

Rishi Sunak this morning - Reuters
Rishi Sunak this morning - Reuters

12:55 PM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson still has confidence in Dido Harding

The failure to report thousands of positive Covid-19 tests last week in England was the result of issues relating to the transfer of data between organisations, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said there had been a "technical issue" involving NHS Test and Trace and Public Health England (PHE).

"The issue relates to the transfer of data between NHS Test and Trace and PHE," the spokesman said.

The spokesman said that work was now under way to alert people who had been in contact with those individuals who had tested positive.

"That work is ongoing. It is being worked on as a matter of urgency," the spokesman said.

Asked if the Prime Minister still had confidence in the head of NHS Test and Trace, Baroness Harding, the spokesman said: "He does, yes."

Dido Harding, executive chair of NHS Test and Trace  - Reuters
Dido Harding, executive chair of NHS Test and Trace - Reuters

12:50 PM

Lobby latest: Local lockdown decisions not affected by missing tests, Downing Street says

Additional contract tracers have been brought in to help track down the contacts of people whose positive tests went unreported last week, Downing Street has confirmed.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "What they have been able to do is to put on a very significant number of additional shifts."

In addition, the spokesman said the number of call attempts was being increased from 10 to 15 to ensure as many contacts as possible were traced.

But decisions on local lockdowns had not been affected by the unreported cases, the spokesman said. 

"If we need to take further action then we will do so," he added. "We always keep the data under constant review and where it is necessary to act in order to protect the NHS locally then we will do so."

12:44 PM

Rishi Sunak's speech 'thin gruel' for workers, claims union boss

The leader of the country's biggest union has dismissed Rishi Sunak's virtual party conference statement as "thin gruel for fearful workers".  

Following the Chancellor's speech this afternoon, Unite boss Len McCluskey said:  "Warm words and sympathy do not put food on the table. I'm afraid to say that when the country hungers for a hearty diet of jobs saving and creation, the chancellor has offered little more than thin gruel for fearful workers."

He added: "These are unique times with the gloomiest economic outlook for three hundred years so it is the duty of government to use all the powers at its disposal to drive a new economy for all.

“They have to be prepared to do more than simply set out more chairs in the job centre - and talk of `hard choices' ahead sounds dangerously like a scheme to balance the books on the back of working people and the poor."   

"Workers have not caused this crisis, a fact recognised by the French and can sleep more easily in their beds at night," Mr McCluskey said. "We are urging the chancellor: do not abandon UK workers.  Pull the country's talents together urgently to produce a proper programme to stop our communities descending into jobs wastelands."

12:36 PM

It will be 'tricky' to meet triple lock manifesto pledge, admits Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has warned that it will be "tricky" to meet the triple lock manifesto pledge in light of the "once in a century" situation posed by the pandemic. 

Speaking during an InHouse Lounge session at the virtual Conservative party conference, following his keynote speech, the Chancellor said manifestos "contain many many different pledges and you obviously want to do your best to fulfill as many of them as possible".

But "our manifesto also had some rules around borrowing and debt, so it’s pretty safe to say those are going to be tricky to meet at the moment and probably in time. So straightaway that will be challenging to meet those given what has happened," he added. 

He declined to go into specifics, but stressed he would "have to respond flexibly", although insisted "the values and the principles" would remain intact. 

Mr Sunak has been gunning for the triple-lock since the summer, however he was reportedly overruled by Boris Johnson last month. 

12:13 PM

Test and Trace 'letting London and the country down', says Sadiq Khan

NHS Test and Trace is "letting London and the country down", Sadiq Khan has said in the wake of nearly 16,000 tests being lost in the system. 

The Mayor of London was one of several regional mayors from across England to hold a crunch meeting with Matt Hancock earlier this afternoon, in which leaders demanded local control of the system. 

Mr Khan said this was "the latest debacle", which came at a critical moment. 

"London is at a very serious tipping point and with cases rising it's essential that we have an accurate picture of the number of cases, and that their contacts are urgently told to self-isolate," he said. 

"Today I spoke to the Health Secretary, alongside mayors from across the country, and reminded him that a fully functioning test, trace and isolate system is the only way we will get a grip on this virus, prevent a further lockdown and be able to protect our economy.

"The litany of problems and failures with the system is letting London and the country down."

12:00 PM

Welsh Government 'actively considering' quarantine for some English tourists

The Welsh Government is "actively considering" imposing quarantine restrictions on people travelling into Wales from areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething told a press conference: "We're actively considering what we should do and I've discussed it this morning with the First Minister.

"We have quarantine regulations for international travel.

"So for some of the hotspot areas in the north of England, the North East and North West, and the West Midlands, if they were other countries or territories, we would have quarantine regulations for them to return to the UK."

First Minister Mark Drakeford had previously called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to introduce travel restrictions for people in areas of England under local lockdown.

11:54 AM

Rishi Sunak 'blew his chance to get a grip', claims Labour

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has claimed that Rishi Sunak had "nothing new to say" in his speech to the Conservative party conference today, claiming: "He just blew his chance to get a grip on Britain's jobs crisis."

"No new targeted support for millions facing the furlough cliff edge. Nothing new for the self-employed. Nothing for those excluded so far.

11:32 AM

Have your say on: Who is to blame for the latest testing chaos?

The blame game has well and truly begun after authorities admitted this weekend that a computer glitch had lost nearly 16,000 tests.

While the individuals received their results, no contacts were traced and the overall figure of positive cases has been artificially lowered. All this means that the virus is more prevalent than thought - and that it may be spreading undetected further yet. 

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey this morning shifted the blame onto Public Health England. But this body was brought under a new National Institute for Health Protection earlier this year, which is headed by Dido Harding.

She of course reports to Matt Hancock, whose plan to merge the systems was meant to produce more joined-up working. 

So who is to blame for this latest error? Have your say in the poll below. 

11:31 AM

Watch: 'I can't give you those figures', says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has been unable to say how many contacts of positive coronavirus cases had been missed as a result of the latest testing fiasco, in which a technical "glitch" led to almost 16,000 Covid-19 cases going unreported.

The Prime Minister told reporters in central London: "I can't give you those figures. What I can say is all those people are obviously being contacted and the key thing is that everybody, whether in this group or generally, should self-isolate."

Test and Trace is "working through" the list of people who should be self-isolating after coming into contact with individuals whose positive tests were lost, he added. 

Watch the interview below.

11:15 AM

Government has 'sacred responsibility' to rebalance books after coronavirus, says Rishi Sunak

The Government has a "sacred responsibility to future generations" to rebalance the books after coronavirus, Rishi Sunak has said. 

The Chancellor told the virtual conference that if it was argued that there is "no limit on what we can spend" there is no point in a Conservative government. 

"I have never pretended there is some easy cost-free answer," he adds. "Hard choices are everywhere."

He promises to keep trying to find new ways to support people and businesses, saying: "I will always be pragmatic... I will keep listening, keep striving to be creative in response to the challenges our economy faces, and where I can, I will act. I will not give up, no matter how difficult it is."

11:12 AM

We will not let talent wither or waste, says Rishi Sunak

Despite all the support the economy is now going through "changes as a result of coronavirus that can’t be ignored", Rishi Sunak says. 

"I have always said I couldn’t protect every job or every business," he tells the virtual conference. "No Chancellor could.

"And even though I have said it, the pain of knowing it, only grows with each passing day. So I am committing myself to a single priority – to create, support and extend opportunity to as many people as I can," he addes. 

There is hope, he stresses, saying "the overwhelming might of the British state will be placed at your service."

He adds: "We will not let talent wither, or waste, we will help all who want it, find new opportunity and develop new skills."

11:10 AM

Pandemic has allowed Government to become 'something people of which could be proud', says Rishi Sunak

The world is "only part way through this crisis", Rishi Sunak has said, noting that the emergency has grown from just a health issue to one that "reaches deep into our economy and society". 

Speaking at the virtual conference, the Chancellor said: "Not only does it endanger lives, but jobs and education. It separates friends and family.

"This Government has never been blind to the difficult trade-offs and decisions coronavirus has forced upon on us," he adds. 

Mr Sunak stresses that this goes against the Conservatives' usual philosophy in which "community and belonging" and "personal responsibility and pragmatism" are king.  

He lists the various support schemes that have been put in place, saying: "While we would not have wished for this burden, it has been for many, for the first time in their lives, a moment in which Government ceased to be distant and abstract, but became real, and felt, and something of which people could be proud."

11:05 AM

Boris Johnson 'got it right in the big moments', says Rishi Sunak

Better late than never, Rish Sunak has started his speech, saying that while his first conference speech is not what he had expected it is good to be here today. 

The Chancellor thanks the people who helped him to get where is today, including his predecessors, the voters of Richmond and "my party", who helped deliver the election results last year. 

"Politics is a team sport," he says. 

Mr Sunak also thanks the Prime Minister "whose friendship has been invaluable". 

"I have seen up close the burden he carries," says Mr Sunak adding that "commentators don't see... the care and concern he feels for people every day."

Boris Johnson has "got it right in the big moments," says the Chancellor. 

10:56 AM

Regional leaders to demand local control of Test and Trace during Matt Hancock crisis meeting

Regional leaders will demand local control over Test and Trace during a crisis meeting with the Health Secretary Matt Hancock at noon today. 

It had been reported metro mayors around the country were due to speak to Mr Hancock online to discuss problems with the latest coronavirus figures.

Ahead of the meeting Jamie Driscoll, the North of Tyne metro mayor, said: "I'll be asking the Secretary of State for three things.

"One, support for jobs and businesses affected by lockdown. We stand to lose tens of thousands of jobs, and face all the health effects that has.

"Two, local control of test, track and trace, and crucially, financial support for everyone who needs to self-isolate so they can keep others safe.

"Three, a meeting with my regional colleagues and me to get the first two implemented."

10:31 AM

CPC2020: All questions welcome - except that one

Matt Hancock has just given a Q&A session in which he dodged a question about the latest Test and Trace shambles. 

Speaking at a Policy Exchange event, the Health Secretary talked at length about his plan for hospitals and ensuring they are better embedded in communities, as well as promising that Nightingale Hospitals were "ready for action" when the second wave comes crashing down. 

All laudable stuff. But when it came to Test and Trace, questions came there none - despite the fact that we had been promised "all questions welcome". 

It's worth noting that Policy Exchange is where Mr Hancock announced he was scrapping Public Health England in the middle of a pandemic - an event to which no journalists were invited. 

Meanwhile Gavin Williamson is answering questions from his former teacher - who intervened to answer one himself. 

10:21 AM

Covid vaccine 'would start' with most vulnerable, says Boris Johnson

Any coronavirus vaccine would be offered first to the "most vulnerable", Boris Johnson has said, amid reports that it will be reserved for the elderly and most vulnerable. 

Kate Bingham, the head of the vaccine taskforce, told the FT that people should not believe that the entire country could be immunised, suggesting it could be less than half the population. 

This morning the Prime Minister told reporters: "Obviously, if and when we get a vaccine then the crucial thing would be to ensure that we have sufficient supplies in this country, that we're able to make it in this country, distribute it fast in this country, and clearly the priority for a vaccine will be... those who are the most vulnerable groups.

"That's how you would start."

10:19 AM

Government wants to keep lockdown rules 'simple as possible', says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson said the Government wanted to keep local lockdown rules as "simple as possible" but did not confirm whether a three-tier system was about to be introduced.

The traffic light system - first revealed by the Telegraph several weeks ago - is expected to be confirmed this week. 

The Prime Minister explained that this was because "one of the difficulties in fighting the pandemic is you keep having to adjust the strokes you play, the shots you play, depending on where the virus is and the effect it's having in different localities". 

He added: "It's certainly true, as Chris Whitty and others have said, that it seems more localised, this time than it was in March and April - that's how it has been anyway.

"And we will be taking steps as you can imagine constantly to keep guidance, keep advice as simple as we can.

"When there's more to say on that we will certainly be saying it, but for now it's follow the local rules in the areas which are under special restrictions, get on the website to look at what you need to do, but generally it's all the restrictions that you know."

10:07 AM

Matt Hancock's testing statement pushed back to 4:30pm by urgent question

Matt Hancock's statement to the Commons about the latest testing chaos has been pushed back an hour by an urgent question about the Post Office. 

09:57 AM

Minister unable to confirm how many contacts missed amid lost test data

The Government was this morning unable to say how many contacts of people infected with coronavirus have not been asked to self-isolate, as a minister pointed the finger of blame at Public Health England. 

Therese Coffey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said the problem was being rectified "so we can get those contacts potentially into the system" and contacted "as is appropriate".

But the Cabinet minister was unable to say how many potential close contacts have not been traced, telling BBC Breakfast: "I'm afraid I just don't have that information."

Asked if they have now been contacted, she said: "I know that people who had the initial results have all been contacted, I don't know the answer to that question."

Ms Coffey added: "We can't change the recent history, PHE will make sure that this sort of error doesn't happen again but they did pick up this error and I think they've acted quickly to rectify it."

09:55 AM

Test and Trace 'working through' list of contacts missed because of lost tests, says Boris Johnson

Test and Trace is "working through" the list of people who should be self-isolating after coming into contact with individuals whose positive tests were lost, Boris Johnson has said. 

Speaking in London the Prime Minister said: "What happened here was that some of the data got truncated and it was lost.

"But what they have done now is not only contacted all the people who were identified as having the disease - that was done in the first place - but they are now working through all the contacts as well.

"The key thing, I would say, and it goes for everybody, is that if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace then you must self-isolate, if you are told you have been in contact with somebody who has the virus.

"There is support of £500 for doing so and of course a £10,000 fine if you don't."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the headquarters of Octopus Energy, a British "tech unicorn"  - Getty
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the headquarters of Octopus Energy, a British "tech unicorn" - Getty

09:47 AM

Boris Johnson 'can't give you figures' for how many contacts have been missed through testing chaos

Boris Johnson was unable to say how many contacts of positive coronavirus cases had been missed as a result of the testing fiasco.

The Prime Minister echoed comments made by Therese Coffey, Work and Pensions Secretary, who was also unable to put a figure on it this morning, despite admitting that "there may well be" people who were not self-isolating after coming into contact with individuals who had tested positive because those results had not been entered into the system. 

Mr Johnson told reporters in central London: "I can't give you those figures. What I can say is all those people are obviously being contacted and the key thing is that everybody, whether in this group or generally, should self-isolate."

09:42 AM

What's on the agenda today?

It is a very busy day today, with plenty of speeches and discussions at the Conservative party conference, alongside no small amount of action back in Westminster.

Here are the highlights from today's agenda:

10.30am Matt Hancock is speaking at a Policy Exchange fringe event right now. The topic is about the future of hospitals, but the current crisis could well come up. 

11.00am Gavin Williamson fireside chat in the main room 

11.50am Rishi Sunak's speech - the first of many today, followed by an "in conversation" from 12.15pm 

1.00pm Dehanna Davison, the Bishop Auckland MP, discusses how to keep the Red Wall Blue

1.10pm Rishi Sunak in conversation (again)

2.30pm Fireside chat with Alok Sharma

3.00pm Grant Shapps 

3.30pm The Human Rights Act with outspoken former AG Geoffrey Cox 

3.30pm Oliver Dowden 

4.30pm Treasury minister Jesse Norman gives us a sense of what might be around the corner on tax rises 

5.00pm Ben Wallace 

09:29 AM

The week on Planet Normal: A case of Covid-mania

Until recently, anyone against the Government’s anti-Covid restrictions was viewed as a mad “lockdown sceptic”. But something has shifted.

Amid new restrictions, respected scientists now openly challenge the orthodoxy, putting their heads above the parapet. And, as the economic fallout gets worse, more and more ordinary people – not least Planet Normal podcast listeners – are angrily questioning these latest lockdown measures.

“I’ve been a doctor for over 30 years,” writes one Planet Normal listener. “In March, I saw lockdown as a prudent response to an unknown, scary situation. But since then, the cognitive dissonance between Government propaganda and what seems to be happening on critical analysis of the data is very disturbing”.

Listen to the latest Planet Normal podcast below.

09:22 AM

Testing blunder pushes Covid cases up around the country

The weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases has soared in dozens of areas of England, following the addition of nearly 16,000 cases that had previously been unreported nationwide.

Manchester now has the highest rate in England, with 2,740 cases recorded in the seven days to October 1 - the equivalent of 495.6 cases per 100,000 people, up from 223.2 in the previous week.

Liverpool has the second highest rate, up from 287.1 to 456.4, with 2,273 new cases. Knowsley is in third place, up from 300.3 to 452.1, with 682 new cases.

Other areas recording sharp increases include Newcastle upon Tyne (up from 256.6 to 399.6, with 1,210 new cases); Nottingham (up from 52.0 to 283.9, with 945 new cases); Leeds (up from 138.8 to 274.5, with 2,177 new cases); and Sheffield (up from 91.8 to 233.1, with 1,363 new cases).

All figures are based on Public Health England data published on Sunday night.

09:19 AM

Quit now before it's taken out of your hands, Margaret Ferrier told

The leader of the SNP at Westminster has warned Margaret Ferrier to quit or risk having it "taken out of her hands" by having constituents force a by-election. 

Ian Blackford is one of several people calling for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP to resign her seat after it emerged she travelled between Glasgow and London with coronavirus. 

He told the Telegraph: "She has to preserve her own self respect and dignity and do the honourable thing. A failure to resign on her own terms means she will face a parliamentary standards inquiry.

"Nobody knows where that will go but she runs the risk of having her fate being taken out of her hands."

An SNP source added: "This is not going to end well for her - that's the bottom line. It would be far better for her to take control of the situation than have it taken away."

Somewhat incomprehensibly Ms Ferrier has not gone public since her Thursday night statement, despite being asked to quit by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week. Read the full story here.

09:10 AM

Labour hits out at 'failure of ministers' after Cineworld shuts venues across UK

Labour has hit out at the "failure" of ministers to better support sectors under the tightest restrictions, after cinema giant Cineworld confirmed plans to temporarily close venues, after the latest Bond release was delayed again. 

It will shut 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in the UK from this Thursday, putting an estimated 5,500 jobs at risk just as the furlough scheme winds up. This morning Therese Coffey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, confirmed again that there would be no extension. 

But Jo Stevens, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said: “The cinema industry was viable before the crisis and will be afterwards, when the film industry recovers.

"The failure of ministers to recognise the value of shut-down businesses, which now includes many cinemas, means they are consigning thousands of workers to the scrap heap.”

Around 5,500 jobs in the UK are affected by the decision - Reuters
Around 5,500 jobs in the UK are affected by the decision - Reuters

09:01 AM

Have your say on: Who is to blame for the latest testing chaos?

The blame game has well and truly begun after authorities admitted this weekend that a computer glitch had lost nearly 16,000 tests.

While the individuals received their results, no contacts were traced and the overall figure of positive cases has been artificially lowered. All this means that the virus is more prevalent than thought - and that it may be spreading undetected further yet. 

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey this morning shifted the blame onto Public Health England. But this body was brought under a new National Institute for Health Protection earlier this year, which is headed by... Dido Harding.

She of course reports to Matt Hancock, whose plan to merge the systems was meant to produce more joined-up working. 

So who is to blame for this latest error? Have your say in the poll below. 

08:40 AM

Covid vaccine taskforce boss admits less than half of UK will be immunised

Matt Hancock is also likely to face questions about the much-hoped for vaccine breakthrough, after the head of the immunisation taskforce warned that less than half of the UK population could be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Kate Bingham told the Financial Times: "People keep talking about 'time to vaccinate the whole population' but that is misguided.

"There is going to be no vaccination of people under 18.

"It's an adult-only vaccine for people over 50, focusing on health workers and care home workers and the vulnerable."

She added: "We just need to vaccinate everyone at risk."

08:36 AM

Donald Trump 'put lives at risk' with drive-by, claims health expert

While we wait for the conference to get into gear, let's take a quick look at the latest from America, where Donald Trump is receiving some criticism for his protocol-breaking drive-by yesterday afternoon.

"Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential 'drive-by' just now has to be quarantined for 14 days," said James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University.

"They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theatre. This is insanity."

Meanwhile a British professor who led the trial of the new drug that Donald Trump is taking has said it only works best on serious cases of Covid-19, adding to fears over the seriousness of the President's illness.

Mr Trump will remain on dexamethasone "for the time being" after first taking the steroid on Saturday, his medical team said on Sunday night.

Keep up to speed with this and the rest of the world's Covid news here.

Donald Trump waves from the back of a car in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center - AFP
Donald Trump waves from the back of a car in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center - AFP

08:20 AM

Rishi Sunak to pay 'heartfelt tribute' to PM at conference speech

We will be jumping between Westminster and the Conservative party conference today, where Rishi Sunak has the keynote speech, stressing the "difficult trade-offs and decisions" that are being made due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a speech to the virtual Conservative Party conference, Mr Sunak (again) stress that he cannot protect every job, admitting but make his "single priority" as Chancellor to "create, support and extend opportunity to as many people as I can".

"We will not let talent wither, or waste, we will help all who want it find new opportunity and develop new skills," he is expected to say.

Mr Sunak, who is being touted as a potential successor to Boris Johnson, will pay what was being described as a "heartfelt tribute" to the Prime Minister, acknowledging the "difficult trade-offs and decisions" forced upon the Government.

08:12 AM

Smug or incompetent? Ashcroft maps out the public's view of our leaders

Lord Ashcroft, the perennial thorn in multiple prime ministers' sides, has asked people to ascribe a series of positive and negative words to Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer - and put the results in a word cloud. 

08:02 AM

Minister blames PHE for testing 'glitch' as she admits it may have led to undetected spread of virus

Public Health England is to blame for the "glitch" that led to nearly 16,000 coronavirus tests going missing, which may have resulted in a further undetected spread of the virus, a Cabinet minister has said. 

Therese Coffey told Sky News "there may well be" people who were not self-isolating after coming into contact with individuals who had tested positive because those results had not been entered into the system. 

"I've been made aware that probably the majority of that [contact-tracing] has happened in the latest element of the week, in the last couple of days.

"It is important we act quickly and PHE is acting quickly," she added. 

Asked who was to blame, the Work and Pensions Secretary said: "It was part of the PHE service, PHE have identified where the problem was and are now addressing it."

She added: "PHE found this glitch, found the error."

The Cabinet minister stressed that authorities "can't change the past". 

07:44 AM

Testing 'glitch' will not happen again, says minister

A Cabinet minister has insisted that the "glitch" in which nearly 16,000 positive cases were not added to the system will not happen again. 

Therese Coffey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "largely Test and Trace is working very well", adding that "the most important thing" was that everyone who was tested had received their result.

She added that "the majority" of contact tracing had now begun, saying PHE had "fixed the problem". 

But challenged on the delay and the wider impact that will have on transmission, she said: "I am conscious that something has gone wrong. We can't change history, we can only change the future.

"I would not expect that sort of error to happen again."

07:36 AM

Boris Johnson unlikely to get 'warm welcoming embrace' if Joe Biden wins presidency, says former ambassador

Boris Johnson is unlikely to get a "warm welcome" from the White House if Joe Biden wins the presidential election, Britain's former ambassador to Washington has said.

Lord Darroch said there was still some "resentment and unhappiness" over comments Mr Johnson made while mayor of London and in newspaper columns about the former US president. He also said Mr Johnson would find it easier to secure a trade deal with Donald Trump in the White House than Mr Biden.

Speaking at an event at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, he said: "I'm not sure there will be, you know, quite the warm, welcoming embrace from Biden for Boris Johnson Prime Minister, as it would be from Donald Trump for Boris Johnson Prime Minister."

In 2016 Mr Johnson wrote a newspaper column saying the removal of a bust of Churchill from Mr Obama's office was sign of an "ancestral dislike of the British Empire" and his "part-Kenyan" ancestry.

Lord Darroch also warned that a Biden administration would not prioritise a free trade deal with the UK.

"If Biden wins then life becomes to an extent more normal and Nato gets a boost from having a more congenial president of the White House and just international relations become calmer and much more predictable," he said.

"But I don't think that for Joe Biden's administration a free trade deal with the UK is going to be the top priority." 

07:20 AM

What caused the testing "glitch"?

It seems the problem occurred when test result data from labs wasn’t successfully transferred onto the actual dashboards that report the numbers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday: “The reason for that is because there was a failure in the counting system which has now been rectified.”

He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show it was a “computing issue” and all those who had a positive test had been notified.

It turns out that some files containing positive test results — somewhat unbelievably — exceeded the maximum file size that can be loaded onto their central system, and so they were missed. It’s now splitting the large files into two so it doesn’t happen again. 

Let's not forget how important we've all be told Test and Trace is to keeping on top of the spread of coronavirus.

07:11 AM

Ursula von der Leyen self-isolating

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said she will have to self-isolate until Tuesday after attending a meeting with someone who tested positive.

Luckily for her, the Test and Trace system in Brussels is functioning properly....

07:09 AM

Matt Hancock to give statement after 'shambolic' testing error

Labour has branded the testing glitch, which has resulted in thousands of cases not being added to the national system, "shambolic". 

The Government blamed “computer issues” for a blunder which saw the number of daily cases appear to double overnight.

As well as fudging the critical data - which means hopes that new measures were slowing the spread of the virus have been dashed - tens of thousands of people who should have been told to self-isolate after coming into close contact with an infected case have still not been contacted. 

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, is due to give a statement in the House of Commons this afternoon.

06:55 AM

Coronavirus cases 'lost' in test and trace blunder

More than 15,000 positive Covid cases have become “lost” in Britain’s tracking systems, resulting in long delays being passed on to Test and Trace handlers.

It means that tens of thousands of people who should have been told to self-isolate after coming into close contact with an infected case are only now being contacted – in some cases 10 days after transmission occurred.

Here's today's front page - 

 Read the full story here.

06:53 AM

Burglars to be tagged and tracked round the clock to stop reoffending

All burglars released from jail are to be fitted with GPS tags so they can be tracked 24/7, the policing minister has revealed.

Kit Malthouse said he wanted all freed burglars tagged so police forces could check every burglary in their area against the movements of the criminals to see if they could be suspects.

He said a change in the law through a statutory instrument would mean probation and police could request and enforce the tagging as a condition of the freed burglar’s licence so they could be tracked every minute of the day to within feet.

Refusal to wear the tag would breach their licence, returning them to prison. The order could cover the entire period of their licence so a burglar released halfway through a four-year jail term could be tagged for a further two years in what ministers believe would be a major deterrent to reoffending.