When the lead story in the Daily Mail complains about Excel misuse in its headline you know things have gone too far.
15,841 coronavirus cases were excluded from UK government figures as a result of
…an Excel spreadsheet reaching its maximum file size, which stopped new names being added in an automated process.
Apparently these details were not supplied to the "track and trace" programme, meaning that people exposed to the virus were not alerted—potentially leading to unnecessary infections.
I’ve been complaining about spreadsheet misuse for a decade, and this is one of the most shambolic examples I’ve come across. Blatant abuse of Excel as a ramshackle database.
This also highlights the dangers of casual automation. Without appropriate checks and balances, automated processes can fail catastrophically, and silently.
There really is no excuse for this level of incompetency. And, the worst thing is the "solution".
The technical issue has now been resolved by splitting the Excel files into batches.
Add more sticking plaster to the homespun system and press on. I can only weep.
Some additional technical details have been revealed since the story broke.