The UK has announced more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time since mass testing began. There were 12,872 new cases, while a further 49 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.
However, the government said a technical issue meant some cases this week were not recorded at the time so these were included in Saturday’s data.
It comes after data earlier this week had suggested infections may be rising more slowly than in previous weeks. That data was based on weekly testing among a sample of people in the community to get an idea of how many people in England have the virus at any time.
The government also closely watches the daily number of positive cases, as it provides the most up-to-date snapshot.
However, it published a cautionary message on its “data dashboard”, explaining that the totals reported over the coming days would include some cases from the previous week, “increasing the number of cases reported”.
A Department of Health spokesman said the issue did not affect people receiving test results, and all those who tested positive have been informed in the normal way.
The announcement of the apparent glitch in the daily count comes “at an awkward moment”, according to BBC health editor Hugh Pym, “when there is intense scrutiny of daily Covid-19 data as ministers and health chiefs try to assess the rate of spread of the virus”.
He added: “After criticism in recent months over the way total tests are counted, ministers and officials will now face more questions over the compilation of daily case data.”
The daily total saw a significant rise from 4,044 on Monday to a then-high of 7,143 on Tuesday. However, over the next four days the daily total remained stable – varying between 6,914 and 7,108 – at a time when continued increases might have been expected.
And then came the big leap in numbers announced on Saturday, a far bigger day-on-day increase than at any time in the entire pandemic, which were announced five hours later than the usual time and were accompanied by the government explanation.
The figures announced on Saturday would also have been partially inflated by the fact that 264,979 tests were processed the previous day, the third highest there has been so far in a single 24-hour period.
Saturday’s figure brings the total number of recorded cases in the UK to 480,017.