Government sources claimed the delay of several days was the result of Leicester council failing to sign off on a data-sharing agreement that would have allowed the information to be passed to local officials.

“They were complaining about not getting the postcode data. It’s because it took them three days to complete the data protection agreement,” said the Government source.

“You need to be able to fill in data protection agreements to be able to do stuff. It takes 30 seconds to sign off.  At an operational level they’ve been quite difficult, but then publicly coming out and slagging us off.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We’re ensuring all local and public health bodies have the data they need to support their plans for potential outbreaks.

“In line with standard practice, PHE began continuously sharing data with the local director of public health as soon as a spike in cases was identified.

“Last week, we also started securely sharing postcode-level testing data with all local authorities including Leicester, so it is available to them continuously and at any time.

“We have been working closely with Leicester to target testing, and we urge anyone with symptoms to get a test and self-isolate.”

Public health officials have said there is “no smoking gun” that caused the outbreak, but experts have suggested large, multi-generational households in ethnic communities and outbreaks in food manufacturing plants and textile factories have contributed to the surge.

A worker in a clothing factory in Leicester claimed he and some colleagues were told to go into work despite having tested positive for the virus, a campaign group has said.

A report from Labour Behind the Label included testimony from one worker who felt ill and tested positive for the virus but was told he would be sacked if he did not turn up to work. 

Workers at two factories told The Telegraph their employers had not enforced social distancing or provided employees with face masks or hand sanitiser.

Dominique Muller, the policy director at Labour Behind the Label, said such practices will “have contributed to the spread of the virus among garment factories”.

Saeed Khilji, the chairman of the Textile Manufacturers Association of Leicestershire, said that the “majority” of manufacturers had followed guidelines and “tried their level best” to keep staff safe.

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