The figure showing the number of people infected with coronavirus was omitted from a government website on the same day case loads rose above the safety threshold.
The daily figure, which usually appears on the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) website, was not published on Tuesday night on the same day the UK registered the highly daily total since mid-June.
Ministers blamed ‘technical difficulties’ for the blunder and published the figure – 1,148 cases – on a separate website for the 24 hours to 9am on Tuesday.
The data instead was published by Public Health England while the official dashboard was unable to update.
A DHSC spokesperson said data on the official dashboard would be published as normal on Wednesday, after technical problems were resolved.
The last time the UK registered such a high volume of cases was on June 21 with 1,221 people being infected, breaching the official government threshold.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) has said total daily infections should be lower than 1,000 if ‘flare-ups’ of coronavirus are to be avoided.
Christina Pagel, of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies group of scientists, told the Independent: ‘The JBC set 1,000 cases a day as a warning threshold – but we don’t know what action is meant to be taken on the back of it, or why they picked 1,000.
‘We don’t know whether the government is actually planning on changing strategy in light of ticking up numbers. Or even, what government strategy is in general.
‘Mr Johnson has said opening schools a priority but he hasn’t given any detail of what that means in terms of policy, nor any indication that they are trying to drive down cases before schools open in England.’
The government is pushing ahead with plans to reopen schools in September despite concerns over the virus spreading among pupils.
The prime minister said he had ‘no doubt’ that school would reopen but encouraged teachers to enforce social distancing rules.
On Sunday, when the daily total first breached 1,000, a department spokesperson said: ‘The UK continues to have low levels of disease compared to the start of the pandemic and, thanks to our large testing capacity, we are able to detect more cases now than ever before.
‘We will not hesitate to take necessary steps to stop the spread of the virus and continue to urge the public to play their part by following government guidance.’
Downing Street has repeatedly threatened to reimpose lockdown restrictions if the R rate – which measures the spread of the virus among the public – is at or above 1.0.
According to the latest figures published on a government website for August 7, the rate is now hovering between 0.8 and 1.0.