16,000 Covid test results got lost because the system uses Excel – 15 scathing takedowns
It recently emerged that almost 16,000 coronavirus test results had temporarily been lost due to a technical error.
What probably happened was that the full data set was sent via a type of file with unlimited capacity, but when the information was copied into Excel, the programme’s limit of either 65,536 or 1,048,576 rows – depending on the version – any excess rows were lost.
In this case, 15,841 test results effectively disappeared.
In the UK the number of cases rose rapidly.
But the public – and authorities – are only learning this now because these cases were only published now as a backlog.
The reason was apparently that the database is managed in Excel and the number of columns had reached the maximum. pic.twitter.com/X4a8keSEHK
— Max Roser (@MaxCRoser) October 5, 2020
No doubt there’ll be a full and sincere apology, accompanied by an immediate improvement to the way the system is run.
Of course, it was too huge a cock-up – gaffe just isn’t strong enough – for Twitter to ignore, so here are the best reactions we spotted.
The 'world beating' Serco Test and Trace system is being run on Excel instead of database software – which has caused the latest issues.
Next they'll tell us it's run on Windows 95 and they manually back it up on floppy disks each night.
— Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (@DrRosena) October 5, 2020
I don’t know where the government buys its software from, but I can get the latest version of Excel for less than £12 billion
— Dr Phil Hammond (@drphilhammond) October 5, 2020
excel waiting for that covid data: pic.twitter.com/phWEeKsLGs
— Rob Holley (@robholley) October 5, 2020
Trying to run the test and trace system using Excel like trying to do a Marvel movie's special FX in Microsoft Paint.
— Sooz Kempner (@SoozUK) October 5, 2020
Little way into Matt Hancock's statement on how 16,000 test results went missing because the Excel spreadsheet had too many columns. No mention yet of "Operation Moonshot."
— Tom Peck (@tompeck) October 5, 2020
actually amazed our world beating Test & Trace system is running on Excel when I assumed it was being done in crayon on a napkin
— dave ❄️ 🥕 🧻 (@davemacladd) October 5, 2020
— Chris Boyd 🇬🇧🇵🇭 (@paperghost) October 5, 2020
get mr clippy before a select committee or hold him in contempt
— Mollie Goodfellow (@hansmollman) October 5, 2020