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6 Nov, 2020 16:07

UK govt admits showing misleading Covid-19 figures in Downing St. briefing after coming under fire for lack of data transparency

UK govt admits showing misleading Covid-19 figures in Downing St. briefing after coming under fire for lack of data transparency

The British government has admitted to showing misleading daily Covid fatality projections in its televised coronavirus briefing last weekend, during which PM Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown.

The revelation comes after the UK stats watchdog criticized the government’s lack of transparency in its use of Covid data.

A government spokesperson admitted on Friday that there had been a mistake in a slide displayed during the prime Minister’s Covid briefing on Saturday, during which he announced a new nationwide lockdown for England. 

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The misleading figures in question related to projected daily fatalities in the run-up to Christmas. The graph used on Saturday showed Covid deaths reaching 1,400 a day by December 8, suggesting that the second wave would be far more deadly than the first. The figures were subsequently revised down for Tuesday’s briefing, to just under 1,000. 

The prime minister’s spokesperson said that, despite the error on the slideshow, the consensus remains that Covid deaths from the second wave would have overtaken the peak of the first wave within weeks without a national lockdown.

We accept there was a mistake in plotting the confidence intervals, which are the blue shaded areas, which we corrected as soon as identified, but there was no error in the underlying analysis. 

The UK’s Office for Statistics Regulation condemned the government for failing to display data and analysis to support their decisions in a way which is clear and transparent to the public. 

A statement released by the statistics watchdog on Thursday noted “the use of data has not consistently been supported by transparent information being provided in a timely manner. As a result, there is potential to confuse the public and undermine confidence in the statistics.”

The body added that methodologies and key assumptions should be published alongside data to increase understanding and public confidence in the statistics used during the pandemic.

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England was plunged into a month-long lockdown on Thursday following a surge in Covid cases and worrying projections. Although confirmed infections continue to rise, with 24,141 new cases recorded on Thursday, the government maintains that the lockdown will end on December 2.

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