Now Tory conference is hit by tech glitches too

Now Tory conference is hit by tech glitches too: Virtual Q&A with Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak is delayed by 50 minutes after system crashes in ‘complete shambles’

  • Feed went dead as Rishi Sunak addressed the virtual Tory conference yesterday 
  • On Saturday, exhibitors were temporarily unable to log into the virtual event 
  • Commercial exhibitors had stumped up £6,000-£25,500 for an online ‘stall’
  • Comes after Covid tests last week went unreported because of ‘computer glitch’

The Tory party’s online conference descended into shambles as it suffered technical glitches.

As Rishi Sunak addressed the Conservative conference for the first time as Chancellor yesterday, the transmission went dead and he was left speaking into an empty vacuum. 

Just two days earlier, exhibitors were temporarily unable to log into the virtual conference as Michael Gove participated in a ‘fireside chat’. 

This is yet another embarrassing episode for the beleaguered PM, who has been dogged by technological issues in recent days. 

It comes in the wake of the test and trace shambles, with the news that 16,000 people who tested Covid-positive last week went unreported because of a ‘computer glitch’.

Business leaders waiting for a virtual question and answer with Boris Johnson and Mr Sunak. Pictured, the PM chairing his weekly Cabinet meeting remotely from the Cabinet room of No10 Downing Street during the coronavirus

As Rishi Sunak addressed the Conservative conference for the first time as Chancellor yesterday, the transmission went dead and he was left speaking into an empty vacuum

Business leaders waiting for a virtual question and answer with Boris Johnson and Mr Sunak faced a buffering screen for almost an hour. 

The session was delayed by around 50 minutes, according to the Times, with one business owner telling the paper: ‘It’s been a complete shambles to be honest.’

Yesterday, a staggering  rise in coronavirus cases was recorded in Britain as the Department of Health announced 12,594 more positive tests – more than triple the 4,368 that were recorded a fortnight ago.

Last Monday’s data, which would usually be a good point of reference, is now unreliable because of a catastrophic counting error at Public Health England, meaning September 21 is the most recent Monday with an accurate number. 

Officials confirmed that the huge number was a clean count that did not include any cases left over from the weekend’s data blunder at Public Health England that saw 16,000 test results from the past week tacked onto Sunday night’s update.  

Instead, the more than 12,000 new infections emerged after the fog had cleared from the counting catastrophe – believed to have been caused by an Excel problem in outdated software at PHE – and marked one of the biggest one-day rises so far for Britain.

The extraordinary meltdown was caused by an Excel spreadsheet containing lab results reaching its maximum size, and failing to update. Some 15,841 cases between September 25 and October 2 were not uploaded to the government dashboard.

As well as underestimating the scale of the outbreak in the UK, critically the details were not passed to contact tracers, meaning people exposed to the virus were not tracked down. 

The technical issue has now been resolved by splitting the Excel files into batches.

Boris Johnson, left, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, right, in London yesterday

Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced the House of Commons to explain the extraordinary episode, which he said ‘should never have happened’. 

He told MPs an investigation was being carried out into how thousands of cases had dropped out of the system. 

Labour slammed the government for ‘failing on the basics’, while Tory MPs weighed in to warn public confidence is being ‘undermined’ and demand the military is brought in to help. 

Mr Hancock revealed that he was told on Friday night that the cases had gone missing, and urgent contact tracing had started on Saturday morning. However, only 51 per cent of the cases had been contact traced as of this morning. 

Mr Hancock laid the blame squarely on ‘legacy’ software system at Public Health England, amid a bitter spat over who was responsible for the shambles. He said he had already ordered it to be replaced. 

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