Stats bosses take swipe at Boris Johnson & scientists over data which 'could confuse the public'
STATS bosses have bashed Boris Johnson and the Government for its use of data during the Covid-19 outbreak – as MPs demanded they get access to more vital health information.
The Office for Statistics Regulation today took a swipe at politicians, saying the use of data "has not consistently been supported by transparent information being provided in a timely manner".
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It took aim at ministers and scientists who have been under fire this week for the use of data to justify England being plunged into a second national lockdown today.
Doomsday graphs showing possible deaths reaching 4,000 a day were shown to the nation at Boris Johnson's press conference on Saturday – but they were later proven to be a model which was out of date.
Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance presented data, including one graph which showed the death toll predictions from various models.
Today the stats authority said "there is potential to confuse the public and undermine confidence in the statistics".
It demanded that in future all information shown should be published in a clear way which people can access at the time – showing the right context and where it comes from.
In a swipe at the Government it added: "It is clear that those working on the pandemic face significant pressures.
"But full transparency is vital to public understanding and public confidence in statistics and those who use them."
The data presented on Saturday included data from Public Health England (PHE) and Cambridge University, which predicted the most extreme death toll – up to 4,000 fatalities a day.
But, one of the scientists who worked on that study, said the data was presented incorrectly.
Professor Danlela de Angelis said the curve was made to look like a prediction, when in fact it was a model that was a month old and did not take into consideration the tier restrictions that had previously been introduced.
The Cambridge model has since revised its estimates which are around 1,000 deaths by the start of December.
Usually the data from the Government's press conferences goes online after it has finished – another criticism of the stats regulator.
It comes as:
- Rishi Sunak extended the furlough scheme – paying up to 80 per cent of people's wages – into March next year
- England went into a second national lockdown today – with non-essential shops, restaurants, gyms and pubs closed
- The PM will give a national update with a press conference at 5pm today with Simon Stevens from the NHS
- The Bank of England today pumped £150billion more into the economy through quantitive easing – and said the economy would take a 2% GDP hit as a result of more lockdown rules
It came as ex-Cabinet minister Liam Fox said today that "for most of us, the government saying they are following the science is no longer good enough".
He told Times Radio that the issue of data was a strong issue among fellow MPs.
He demanded a commission set up across parties so MPs could get access to the information the Governmen was using.
Mr Fox, who was most recently the UK's Trade Secretary, added: "We have to able to hand on heart say that the cure is not worse than the disease.
"I want to be able to see the wider NHS and not just Covid, I want to see the data on the economy, on jobs and on trade of a lockdown.
"I want to see the impact we have to able to measure on social fabric and what is happening to that."
Yesterday former PM Theresa May led criticism of her successor in the House of Commons ahead of a lockdown vote where she abstained.
Mrs May stuck the knife into Boris over his use of questionable data which led to the lockdown decision.
She told the Commons: "It appears the decision to go towards this lockdown was partly, mainly, to some extent based on the prediction of 4,000 deaths a day.
"Yet if you look at the trajectory showing in that graph that went to 4,000 deaths a day, we would have reached 1,000 deaths a day by the end of October.
"The average in the last week of October was 259, by my calculations. Each of those deaths is a sadness and our thoughts are with the families, but it's not 1,000 deaths a day.
"So the prediction was wrong before it was even used.
"And this leads to a problem for the Government – for many people it looks as if the figures are chosen to support the policy rather than the policy being based on the figures."
She said it seemed ministers wanted to find data to fit their decision, rather than the other way around.
More than 30 Tories voted against and another handful failed to vote at all in protest at the second national lockdown measures which came into effect at midnight.
Non-essential shops have shut, people have been told to stay home for four weeks, with gyms, restaurants and hairdressers ordered to close too.
People are allowed to leave their home for a string of reasons, but aren't allowed to meet with more than one person from outside their household – and it must be outside.
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