Saturday, May 02, 2020

Coronavirus 25

Right from the start of the pandemic, I've pretty much ignored the government's daily announcement of the number of cases, since they reflect the amount of testing and who is being tested, rather than give much useful information about the disease.

It's all been a smokescreen, diverting attention from a government policy that has caused tens of thousands of avoidable deaths. This came to a head with the excitement over whether Matt Hancock's totally arbitrary round number of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April would be met. (It was, but only by counting tests that hadn't happened yet. Only about 73,000 people were tested that day.)

As BBC Reality Check @BBCRealityCheck pointed out:
It's also worth pointing out that of the 122,347 tests announced by the Health Secretary, the number of people tested was 73,191 (according to the DHSC) This can be down to some people having to be tested twice for clinical reasons.

Much more important are questions of who is being tested and why. Had testing been of a random sample of the population then we might have learnt something useful.

Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet put it succinctly: "Daily UK deaths this wk: 813, 413, 360, 586, 765, 674, 739. We may be “past the peak”, but the number of daily deaths is a human catastrophe. Many of these deaths were preventable. News headlines should not be about meeting the 100K testing target. They should be about these deaths."

This article by Van Savage, explains the point. It is part of the Santa Fe Institute's Transmission series, transmitting insights into the COVID-19 pandemic from the world of complexity science. It's well worth a gander.

But whenever you read the words 'flattening the curve' do remember that given the policies applied in Vietnam, New Zealand, Taiwan, and South Korea, there would be no curve to flatten. And neither should there be in the UK, had the government actually followed the science instead of telling lies.


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