The Public Health authorities said on Sunday evening that 15,841 coronavirus cases detected between September 25 and October 2 were left out of the UK daily case figures due to a glitch that was identified on Friday night and later resolved.
"The public health consequences of this raise so many questions How many contacts of these *missing* 16,000 have been unknowingly spreading the virus? When will the Govt deliver a functional test & trace system? Why is Dido Harding still in her job?" Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas wrote on Twitter.
Labour lawmaker Richard Burgon also called for Baroness Harding, who holds a seat in the House of Lords for the ruling Conservative Party, to resign.
"This issue is too important to have someone in charge who just isn’t up to the job. And to be frank her appointment to this role stinks of political cronyism," Burgon said, as quoted by the Morning Star.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said on Twitter that "this is a mess with hugely serious implications," adding that Health Secretary Matt Hancock should appear before the House of Commons on Monday "to explain what on earth has gone wrong."
Many Twitter users also questioned Harding’s qualifications to run the Test and Trace Programme, while others recalled that she was the chief executive of TalkTalk when the telecom group suffered a cyberattack that revealed personal and banking details of four million customers in 2015.
Susan Hopkins, the Test and Trace and Public Health England joint medical advisor, said the case underreporting did not affect people receiving their test results.
"All people who tested positive have received their COVID-19 test result in the normal way. It also does not impact the basis on which decisions about local action were taken last week, said, as quoted in the official statement," Hopkins said in a statement.
After the update, the total number of coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom climbed to 502,978, and the death toll now stands at 42,350, after a further 33 deaths were reported on Sunday.