News that Britain’s ‘world-beating’ Test and Trace system is being run on Excel has been met with shock and despair today.
The weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases soared in dozens of areas of England, following the addition of nearly 16,000 cases that went unreported by because of a technical error with the spreadsheet.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unable to say on Monday morning how many contacts of positive coronavirus cases had been missed, but it is likely to be a significant amount.
The issue occurred when people who tested positive were not recorded once a master Excel spreadsheet reached its maximum size – 16,384 columns, aka “XFD”.
Public Health England (PHE) said the technical issue resulted in 15,841 cases between September 25 and October 2 being left out of the reported daily coronavirus cases.
Reaction has been less than complementary of the government. We’ve picked out some of the best below:
March:— James Felton (@JimMFelton) October 5, 2020
“world beating test track and trace”
“Does anybody know how to add columns in excel?” https://t.co/aAZucXR7l4
The 'world beating' Serco Test and Trace system is being run on Excel instead of database software – which has caused the latest issues.— Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (@DrRosena) October 5, 2020
Next they'll tell us it's run on Windows 95 and they manually back it up on floppy disks each night.
Yes, but it was a world-beating excel spreadsheet. https://t.co/B2AVPbg3RC— Brian Moore (@brianmoore666) October 5, 2020
When I first heard that cases were missing I thought “can’t be an Excel problem, the rows run out at 1,048,576 which is bigger than even total cases”.— Matt Parker (@standupmaths) October 5, 2020
I never thought they’d have a case per COLUMN. Unbelievable. And yes: Excel columns end at 16,384 aka “XFD”. https://t.co/To9b4qIuzD
The thing I still cannot remotely understand is why Excel was anywhere near the UK testing system in the first place. It's spreadsheet software, not database software – it should not have been within 100 miles of a system developed in 2020.— James Ball (@jamesrbuk) October 5, 2020