James O’Brien has compared Dido Harding to Rodney Trotter from Only Fools and Horses after a “technical glitch” was blamed for 16,000 Covid cases going unreported.
The LBC presenter laid into England’s test and trace chief after Public Health England (PHE) admitted 15,841 cases between September 25 and October 2 were left out of daily case figures.
They have now been added in, leading to Saturday’s figure of 12,872 new cases and 22,961 on Sunday.
The government has said a technical glitch had forced the error.
Ridiculing the excuse, O’Brien said: “September shouldn’t have surprised anybody, schools go back, students go back, and here we are looking at yet another error.
“This time round of course by the time the second spike, the appalling failure to have a test and trace system by the first spike would have been fixed by Dido Trotter, sorry, Harding.”
He added: “16,000 just sort of disappeared. Dropped off the radar, was a technical glitch, Rodney. Technical glitch. What’s a technical glitch? Don’t know, don’t ask any questions, no income tax, no VAT, no money back, no guarantee.”
O’Brien questioned Harding’s appointment as the head of the NHS Test and Trace system and the National Institute for Health Protection, after her “nightmare” tenure at telecoms company TalkTalk several years ago.
Under her management, the company was fined £400,000 after the details of 157,000 customers were hacked by two teenage boys.
An official investigation by the privacy regulator, the ICO, found hackers were able to access TalkTalk systems “with ease” because of “technical weaknesses”. In all, the hacks cost the company £77m.
O’Brien said the glitch showed just how well the daily testing system was working.
“It’s meaningless if there’s 16,000 that got lost down the back of the sofa then all of last week’s numbers are utterly meaningless. And yet we’re trying to frame policy and public discourse according to them,” he added.
“All of the weirdos start going the figures have come down, Whitty and Vallance are talking nonsense. Then 16,000 new ones arrive!”
“If this governments performance was an episode of The Thick Of It it would win every award for the genius and hilarity of its writing. Tragic that it isn’t,” Andy Cutler wrote on Twitter.
If this governments performance was an episode of The Thick Of It it would win every award for the genius and hilarity of its writing. Tragic that it isn’t.
— Andy Cutler (@andyav1976) October 5, 2020
“Now that we know they have used a tool that is not fit for purpose I think the bigger question now is how can we rely on the quality of the data?” asked one user.
Another pointed out: “Many organisations like the NHS and other critical systems like aviation, or banking use ‘outdated software’ because if they change or update the software they need to reverify the entire system. This can be very expensive so they’d rather stay with the older software.”