Addressing criticisms of COVID-19 reporting through data

Addressing criticisms of COVID-19 reporting through data

Addressing criticisms of COVID-19 reporting through data. A light-touch stab at adjusting doomsday numbers.

The 6 month anniversary of the introduction of the first lockdown measures in the UK is fast approaching, and with it the promise of tightening of restrictions once more, following a period of cautious “return to normal” over the past few months. Most of us have anticipated a second lockdown in some form after the relative frivolities of the summer, so few will be surprised by Boris Johnson’s announcement to re-introduce certain limitations in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Looking at the alarming rate at which reported positive cases are increasing, this seems like an obvious decision, too:

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Fig 1 UK Total Cases — source

With the ensuing public concern came a rising sense of skepticism about the reported numbers. Several outlets, including the BBC, have called into question the reliability of these figures, driven by the observation that neither hospital admissions nor COVID-related mortality have increased at anywhere near the rate of reported positive cases:

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Fig 2 UK Total Hospital Admissions — source

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Fig 3 UK Total Deaths — source

While all of the challenges laid out by these outlets may not be valid, they do highlight a number of glaring issues with the way these figures are reported and, more importantly, interpreted by the public and seemingly the government. In the next few minutes I attempt to highlight a few of these and offer ways to put these numbers into a different perspective.

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