That private sector test and trace disaster

So we’re told, using anything other than the NHS has been a total disaster.

Many thousands of people may have isolated unnecessarily because a government error meant they were “pinged” by the Covid app for a “close contact” in the prior five days rather than two days, a Whitehall whistleblower has told the Guardian.

As the isolation rules for double vaccinated people were relaxed on Monday, it has emerged that users were never told the app could notify of contact with an infected person as far back as five days before the positive test.

Official guidance for the NHS Covid app defined close contact as occurring two days before the infected person had symptoms, while the official NHS test-and-trace service has always used two days as its definition.

The Whitehall source said that the error had been flagged in a submission to Matt Hancock, the then health secretary, shortly before he resigned at the end of June but it had never been publicly admitted.

If only we’d used the NHS, not Boris’ Buddies!

Who has been involved in creating the app?
The NHS COVID-19 app is administered and owned by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The development team includes product managers & designers, software architects and developers, security experts, testers and support staff. The team has staff from Accenture, Alan Turing Institute, NHS Digital, NHSx, Oxford University, VMware Pivotal Lab and Zuhlke Engineering. As the Government’s lead technical authority on cyber security, the National Cyber Security Centre has also supported in an advisory role.

Oh…..

30 thoughts on “That private sector test and trace disaster”

  1. There is nothing new under the sun, alas: public sector projects awarded to the tried and tested firm of Buckpasser & Homeworking with day-to-day oversight from the Department of Procrastination.

  2. I’m obviously the only one but I think test and trace has been an enormous success. It took a system designed to handle 50 cases to test a million cases a day (a rate at least 3 times as high as any other major economy.) When my daughter tested positive I received lateral flow tests within 12 hours by post and a PCR test posted to me, posted the sample back and the results (negative) within 36 hours
    For something involving the government highly impressive

  3. Working as designed. That’s what they say in the software world, hoping you don’t notice they didn’t say working as intended.

  4. One problem with test and trace is surely that the tests are probably not much cop. It’s been 18 months; it is, on the face of it, odd that no improvement is available for the PCR test except turning down the Ct value.

    Is it known what Ct value the British test and trace service uses?

  5. “The team has staff from Accenture, Alan Turing Institute, NHS Digital, NHSx, Oxford University, VMware Pivotal Lab and Zuhlke Engineering. As the Government’s lead technical authority on cyber security, the National Cyber Security Centre has also supported in an advisory role.”

    Looks like a Team structure of:-

    Accenture – backend server development (utter shitbags that you should keep away from your org)
    Zuhlke – app development (no idea)
    Alan Turing Institute – AI (gov run, so probably useless)
    NHS Digital/NHSx – Project management, specification and QA (so failed here)
    Oxford University – bit of science input

    So the backend guys fucked up in their coding and testing (probably some PHP guy barely out of university that Accenture had sitting around and had a C# book thrown at him). NHS worked at its normal level of testing (i.e. about none, and zero automated regression tests).

  6. I’m obviously the only one but I think test and trace has been an enormous success.

    The experience of Mrs. Bloke In Cyprus is somewhat different.

    She flew into the UK on the 17th of July, the T & T people called her a couple of days later but she was eating. They said they would call her back in 5 minutes and she should expect to be on the call for 30 minutes. She hasn’t heard from them since.

    Her day #2, #5 and #8 tests were Positive, Negative and Indeterminate. The lab said she’d have to do another PCR which was sent off. She still hasn’t got the result a month later.

    Utter farce.

  7. This is why I can’t get nearly as exercised as Ecksy about the dangers of government trying to institute a social credit system. One would only be a danger if it actually worked 100%. It has to punish dissent & reward compliance unfailingly, all of the time. A significant failure rate & it won’t achieve what was intended. It doesn’t produce an obedient population. It produces a confused population. That’s a society won’t be operating at anything near its potential. It’s likely to be gameable. China may have introduced one, but do we actually know how well it’s working? The system itself stops people disclosing its faults.
    There’s a high probability any social credit system will have the same faults as any other government large IT project. They don’t produce the results they were intended to achieve. Produce more problems than they solve. The problems are a cost. Reduce productivity. Good way of turning a country becoming richer into a country becoming poorer. The West has the advantage, our governments generally give up on things don’t work. CCP will more likely cling to theirs to the bitter end. Eventually it’ll destroy the CCP

  8. BiS

    I tend to disagree in a sense. I think that the social credit system you envisage is, as you say, likely to be just another morass of guv stupidity.

    But add the Stasi with door-knocking and instant grab’em and drag ’em off rights and the picture changes. They don’t have to be even close to 100% accurate. It suffices that they exist and they drag someone off sufficiently often.

    Then you get an increasingly cowed populace. And I got the impression that the knock and interfere rights have increased enormously with covid, although the drag ’em off never to be seen again bit hasn’t.

  9. I still don’t see how you run a social credit system with millions of illegals. Unless it’s like the green card system in the US where thousands of hispanics have the same number.

  10. Did I read that at morning roll call in the Gulags, they would take one random person and drown them in a lake pour encourager les autres?

    “although the drag ’em off never to be seen again bit hasn’t”. Yet.

  11. . . . the error had been flagged in a submission to Matt Hancock . . .

    This angle inclines me to the belief that the whole story is just spin to hide / justify the slackening of their standards.

  12. @BiS

    “This is why I can’t get nearly as exercised as Ecksy about the dangers of government trying to institute a social credit system. One would only be a danger if it actually worked 100%.”

    I had a similar discussion along these lines with my wife and friends in the village about woodburning stoves, which we all use along with our oil fired boilers et cetera to keep the Siberian winter at bay.

    Their attitude was there is no way they can police this because there are 100,000 woodburning stoves in Gloucestershire and they’re not going to go around to every house.

    I pointed out that perhaps they would if the economic incentives were there, but even so they didn’t need to: if one bloke in the village visited on spec gets fined five grand for polluting, how keen will be other 99 woodburning stove owners in the village to fire up their tackle the next day?

    That’s without factoring in that the arbitrary nature of it is a feature, not a bug. They want to keep you on your toes and they want their friends to be able to do what they want to do and to get those who are their enemies as and when they need to.

  13. @BiTiN
    Worth remembering the iron rule. Any society is made up of individuals. Individuals will try & maximise what they perceive as their own personal advantage. What these systems try to do, the NHS T&T app. The Chinese social credit system. Is to get these perceived advantages to align in the preferred direction. If they fail, the perceived advantages align in all sorts of directions. If sufficient conflict, it’s a disaster.
    Why totalitarian states usually fail. It may be one man or a small group at the top. But all the way down from there it’s individuals after what they can get. With the usual results. More open societies usually manage to get those perceived interests to align better. In a sense, it’s a market solution. You go in the direction of the majority of perceived interests.

  14. “…the app could notify of contact with an infected person as far back as five days before the positive test…while the official NHS test-and-trace service has always used two days as its definition.”

    I thought that the incubation period was two weeks.

  15. @Interested
    Perceived advantage. A warm house is a perceived advantage. 10,000 woodburning stoves is probably 200,000 voters. The perceived advantage is a change in local government.
    True the way the country & it’s bureaucracies operate negates a lot of this. But only for so long. It’s like the government’s zero carbon in ’35 nonsense. How likely is that actually to happen? I wouldn’t give it 20 to 1.

  16. The other point to make about the alleged incompetence of the government is that possibly we are wrong.

    We think they are incompetent because they cannot fill potholes and they dish out £10 billion to contractors to create IT systems for the NHS, but what if they just don’t give a shit about potholes outside our houses and their mates run the IT contractors?

    They certainly are very good at enriching themselves – when did a prime minister leave office poorer or at least with less potential to get rich than when he entered it? And the police are pretty good when they want to be, to.

    They don’t solve your burglary because they don’t give a shit about your burglary, but they’re good with very serious crime and I bet they would solve your MP’s burglary pretty quickly.

  17. “China may have introduced one, but do we actually know how well it’s working? The system itself stops people disclosing its faults.”

    Right

    1. Government says it’s doing a thing, and maybe does it a bit, but it’s leaky as hell
    2. People work around the leaks, but of course, they aren’t exactly going to be very public about it.
    3. Civil servants know it’s leaky as hell, but also keep their mouth shut because the narrative is that it’s good.
    4. The media see (1) but not (2) or (3) so think it’s working. And most of them are fucking lazy and just want to produce entertainment rather than the truth.

    Your “people are doing a thing to maximise their personal advantage” applied to the Stasi. People would just make up reports if their boss was lazy. And a lot of bosses in government are lazy, because they’re doing the same maximisation thing.

    People like Dominic Cummings are rare in government. To be fair, lots of people are alright. But there’s a shocking level of lazy bastards.

  18. I think computing power and eventually AI and machine learning are game changers in all of this.

    Currently, if the police want to look at CCTV of a corner shop in Lewisham to see if the people who stabbed a kid on the street outside went in to buy a Mars bar somebody has to go to the shop to requisition the footage, and then sit and look at it.

    Give it some period – five to fifty years, who knows- and it will all be done automatically all of the time.

    You have to remember that human incompetence was the only reason any megalomaniac psychopath got held back.

    If Hitler had developed flying murderbot drone swarms which could tell the difference between field grey and Allied khaki he would’ve won the war. But his scientists did not then have the competence to do that. If Henry the Eighth had had the power to defend the realm, and make all the food and other goodies he wanted for himself, such that he did not need the peasants, and he had a way of disposing of the peasants, And I expect he would have disposed of all of the peasants by the attractive young women. It wasn’t their lack of desire to do these things that held them back, it was their inability to do it.

    I wouldn’t be all that averse to the Henry the Eighth option myself, thinking about it, as long as I got to define who was left hanging around.

  19. Interested,

    “We think they are incompetent because they cannot fill potholes and they dish out £10 billion to contractors to create IT systems for the NHS, but what if they just don’t give a shit about potholes outside our houses and their mates run the IT contractors?”

    Forget the “helping out their mates”. They’d get their mates running pothole filling if that was all they cared about.

    It’s more about how politicians have different priorities to you and for many, they want to leave a mark. They just aren’t interested in the boring shit that the people want: bins emptied, potholes filled, swings in the parks fixed, graffiti removed. New art gallery in town? HS2? F**king trams? And they’re sure these things will be good for the little people so they doctor the figures.

    You always have to watch politicians when they are dragged into supporting something they don’t care about. Neither of them cares about immigration. Priti and Boris will make sounds, but they were dragged into this by Farage. If they cared about it, really cared about it, it would never have gotten to that stage.

  20. @Bloke on M4

    ‘Forget the “helping out their mates”. They’d get their mates running pothole filling if that was all they cared about.’

    I take your point but I think it’s a mix of both – yes, they want to leave a mark, but they also want to bung their mates, and there’s a lot less profit to be made in potholes than there is in IT.

    But my point really is that question of incompetence. I’ve always said they’re incompetent, look at the waste, look at the fucks ups etc – and really believed it.

    Covid has made me think I was terribly naive and that I only thought eg HS2 was pointless, a waste of money and thus a giant fuck up because I stupidly imagined (even with my cynical mind) that they actually did want to produce a high speed train link from Birmingham to London and it was just that they were stupid twats who couldn’t control a budget.

    I think I had the cart before the horse. They can’t – brazen as they are – take £150 billion and give it to their mates*, so they have to have something to show for it. In that case HS2.

    *Obviously it doesn’t all go to ‘their mates’ – it does provide jobs (which are popular, even if they are a cost) and some number of mindless cunts do think HS2 is a good idea as well, so it doesn’t cost them every vote in the land.

  21. The system itself stops people disclosing its faults.
    YES
    Xi the Pooh may think he knows what’s going on, but no one will tell him the truth if it’s likely to get them in trouble.

  22. Bloke in North Dorset

    . . . the error had been flagged in a submission to Matt Hancock . . .

    And one of 2 things happened:

    1. They hid it in some banal report in his Red Box, as described by Sir Humphrey because they didn’t want it seen or

    2. Hancock came across it and being the petty authoritarian he turned out to be quite liked the idea so didn’t want it correcting.

    I’m going with 2, we know he tried to hide stuff from Boris and embellished stuff to get lockdowns.

    I thought that the incubation period was two weeks.

    Its a while since I’ve seen anything but the original T&T was based on a 5 day incubation period before symptoms showed, but that you could be infectious before becoming symptomatic. It was only 2 days for T&T because they thought the the viral load wouldn’t be high enough to infect most people in that first 3 days.

    Symptoms then last about 10 days during which time the victim is shedding virus, although the amount declines significantly after about 7 days.

    As I say, that info may have been changed.

    As for politicians’ incentives, they boil down to one thing: getting re-elected.

    No matter what their motivation for becoming an MP, maybe to campaign on a single issue eg battered women or veterans, or to make a grand name for themselves by solving the world’s problems, they can’t do any of that if they don’t get re-elected.

  23. Another thing to factor in with the “perceived advantage” thing is time horizons. The more competitive the situation, the shorter the time horizons. The players spend more time firefighting than they do long term planning. Politicians think almost entirely short term. It’s forced on them by the environment they’re operating in. So it’s much more “personal advantage NOW”

  24. Interested

    “I pointed out that perhaps they would if the economic incentives were there, but even so they didn’t need to: if one bloke in the village visited on spec gets fined five grand for polluting, how keen will be other 99 woodburning stove owners in the village to fire up their tackle the next day?

    That’s without factoring in that the arbitrary nature of it is a feature, not a bug. They want to keep you on your toes and they want their friends to be able to do what they want to do and to get those who are their enemies as and when they need to.”

    Yep, Stasi. Doesn’t need to be 100% hit rate. Just – as has been noted – enough to be seen to happen.

  25. Speeding fines definitely stop people speeding. And the threat of parking fines is so effective they haven’t issued a ticket for years.

  26. People speed because the risk of being caught (once you know where the cameras are) is small*. Many factor parking fines into the ‘cost of doing business’ – they’re often not much more expensive than car park charges anyway.

    * I’m talking about doing 90mph (rather than 190) on the m’way or 45 in a 30 limit (though there are mobile cameras to worry about in the latter case)

  27. You are far too complacent BiS.

    Yes govt is shite–but they still get Income tax out of us and VAT and road tax which they don’t spend on roads and Council Tax and fuck knows how many other rip-offs.

    If your theories about how useless they are were true those schemes would have floundered long ago. It might take the bastards a few years to get matters working largely how they want and it will never be perfect but a few flukes are not much comfort to the majority of us.

    Solzhenitsyn records how some bloke dived out his window when the KGB came to arrest him during the war. He fled to Siberia and the bastards never caught up with him.Bureaucracy. But –to paraphrase Interested–if he had upset Stalin personally they would have found him.

    With new AI tyranny levels not possible before become possible. Remember that Bogus Johnson wants soc credit tyranny because it is the only way he can force greenfreak ruin onto UK and carry out all the Net Zero evil he has planned. Not enough ploddies/squaddies , beaks, courts or jails to force the shite on us. But social credit = obey or freeze/starve/ be a pariah trapped in your home and worse without need of paid scum to enforce such. Johnson knows that is his only chance. And so do his Globo masters.

    This winter he will try to bring back LDs and masks and more and will put everything into vax pass power-grab inc plod/squad scum on the streets Aussie style to try and intimidate. Vax pass wont last a day as voluntary system so his clapping seals will make it law.

    I and I pray millions of others will defy and ignore his “law” and defeat the vax pass. I urge you all to join in or live to regret it. And have your kids and esp grandkids–if you are allowed any–curse your name as the generation of mugs & cowards who could have stopped tyranny but were too complacent.-

  28. @BiTiN – August 18, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    (@)Interested

    “I pointed out that perhaps they would if the economic incentives were there, but even so they didn’t need to: if one bloke in the village visited on spec gets fined five grand for polluting, how keen will be other 99 woodburning stove owners in the village to fire up their tackle the next day?

    It worked very effectively with the smoking ban in pubs… Rather than make the individual smoker liable (who was likely to take the “smoking warden” out the back and “explain the error of his ways” to him) the onus was placed on the publican – backed up with swingeing fines and potential loss of licence. None (well, very few) of the customers would want that to happen, so compliance was achieved.

  29. @ Baron J

    Yep, though that was also a genuinely popular policy to many people (I don’t smoke, and I prefer pubs now that they’re smoke free to be honest, but I would repeal the ban personally – I’m probably an outlier 🙂 )

    But you’re right of course. They don’t need to be ruthlessly efficient and track down every person who breaks their rules – make a few examples pour encourager les autres and there are plenty of snitches who will do the rest of the work for them.

    I don’t often say this, but I’m with Ecks.

    If we’re right, we lose everything.

    If we’re wrong, we’re wrong, and everyone can shrug and go back to whatever they were doing in 2019.

    On that basis, even if people think there’s only a 1% chance we’re right, they need to do whatever they reasonably can to fight this; if we’re 100% right people need to be prepared to die to stop it.

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