‘Lies, damned lies and statistics …’
First of all an apology to you all: today’s column is late because I’ve got problems with my laptop. I hope to be able to sort them later today.
Scanning the online papers this morning showed me that on the one hand the MSM< reporting on the state of our country in Lockdown, are now grasping at anything to keep their narrative going, of brave health workers v horrid Johnson government, supplemented by local stories about bin collections which wouldn’t have made it into the Broadsheets at any other time. There’s even a very short note that Dominic Cummings may have contracted the virus and is self-isolating (link).
There are muddled reports on case numbers here in the UK and there’s criticism of police behaviour. There are the inevitable reports on testing and test kits which ought to make MSM writers think and ask some inconvenient questions not just about the government but about their own reporting. A vain hope …
There are some Brexit reports which are the usual Remain&EU stuff, i.e. to be filed under ‘EU good, Britain bad’ and we should, nay: must Remain. Yesterday there was a video conference between Brussels and Downing Street negotiators. I refer you to the various reports on this and on the EUrozone mess here and here as well as here and here.
RemainCentral jumped into this with both feet, as was to be expected, quoting Lisa Nandy’s (Lab) demand for Johnson to extend the transition period, followed by Mark François’ remark that this wasn’t going to happen (link, paywalled). But note this fine piece of ‘modern reporting’, where opinion is slyly inserted into a factual account:
“Yesterday, in a sign that the government wants to give the appearance of normality, the first meeting of the joint committee set up to implement the withdrawal agreement was held by teleconference.” (link, paywalled)
‘Giving the appearance of normality’, is it? Or rather, ‘drat, they’re doing video conferencing in the time of CV-19 so perhaps there won’t be an extension’?
Staying with the EU we look at Luxembourg. It’s about the concerted demands for ‘test-test-test’ pushed by our MSM. We now learn that parts of the test kits come from Luxembourg. In our globally connected world we don’t make the whole thing ourselves, we need parts imported from overseas. And lo and behold – these parts are contaminated with the CV-19 virus – see here, here, and paywalled here. Not sufficient care taken, is it, in the drive to ‘ramp things up’?
The difficulty for us in the UK is that we’ve not manufactured such kits in the numbers needed. The Times explains blandly:
“Germany has a significant number of PCR test manufacturers and one company alone scaled up production so much that it produced four million Covid-19 tests in just a few days. The UK does not have the same domestic market to produce tests at such scale.” (link, paywalled)
This is of course the fault of government because the UK should have been able to produce such tests, like Germany – just as we should produce more cars rather than import them from that country, right? There’s more:
“Whitehall sources admitted that UK’s attempts to scale up the rate of testing had been hampered by global shortages of chemical compounds used in the tests. Healthcare companies and health officials have also warned that as the pandemic has spread, so have international shortages of testing kits.” (link, paywalled)
‘Global shortages’ means: China has bought up everything not nailed down and is also the largest producer of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical components. But we can’t mention that … And as the CEO of the Swiss Pharmaceutical company Roche remarks that “demand is outstripping supply by a big margin. […] Widespread testing is simply not possible.” (link, paywalled), Labour has had to wade in regardless:
“Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, has called on the government to detail why testing in the UK had not yet reached greater levels. He said: “Ministers need to tell us whether we have left it too late to procure the reagents and other components and other countries got in there first when the whole world is chasing the same thing.” (link, paywalled)
Yes – we’re back to ‘competition’: we must be ‘first’. Why, in this state of national emergency, does Labour still try to big themselves up with ‘scrutinising government’ attitudes, ably supported by the anti-Johnson MSM? Trying to avert blame from ‘Our NHS’, perhaps?
And so to the numbers game … this is quite extraordinary. We actually cannot trust these numbers, thanks to an almighty muddle between government organisations, with no clear direction as to what should be counted:
“Until now, daily figures – which reveal 1,415 UK deaths so far – have only counted those in hospital, and show a growing time lag approaching three weeks in some cases. […] “The figures due on Tuesday are based on the number of deaths registered “where Covid-19 is mentioned anywhere on the death certificate”, the ONS said. They will cover all deaths for the week ending March 20, although it normally takes around five days for a death to be registered, adding to the lag. There is also normally a five-day delay in registering a death, which means the new weekly ONS tally could lag behind other data.” (link)
So this ‘lag’ of which epidemiologists spoke yesterday isn’t due to more cases overwhelming ‘Our NHS’, it’s due to the time it takes to register deaths! Apparently, death numbers are also given out by other agencies and are only later collated nationally. Blimey!
Moreover, any mention of CV-19 on the death certificate, without a test having been done, will now show up in the national statistic as CV-19 death. How then can any epidemiologist, any doctor, distinguish between people dying ‘because of’ and ‘with CV-19’? This surely is an important distinction which should inform government policies in regard to Lockdown! There’s more muddle:
“Number 10 said some of the time lag in reporting cases was in order to alert victims’ families to the inclusion of their death in the statistics. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “There is a need for families who are grieving to have been told that a loved one will be included in the statistics before they are released. In some circumstances, that has led to a small delay in some individuals being included in the numbers.” (link)
Why? Just why? These statistics are anonymised! Is this a totally inappropriate instance of some bureaucrats virtue-signalling their ‘empathy’? Unbelievable!
Meanwhile that Lockdown-stats professor Neil Ferguson is back, saying that he’s seen signs of the Lockdown working, with hospital admission numbers slowing. This comes under ‘pre-emptive back-pedalling’, in view of that fabulous antibody test arriving “soon”:
“A separate antibody test that would tell people without symptoms if they had recovered from coronavirus would be available in “hopefully days rather than weeks” and would first be used in central London, the professor added.” (link, paywalled)
This is why the professor is cautiously trying to distance himself from the ‘everybody will die’ predictions he made earlier:
“Belgian research hinted that the true number of people infected without realising it could be far higher than thought, with a study suggesting it could be 85 times greater than official estimates. Last week doctors at the Free University of Brussels (UZ) hospital carried out lung scans on all patients who were admitted for non-coronavirus related radiology […] and discovered that 8 per cent showed signs of being infected by the virus without realising it. The findings echo controversial estimates from a group at Oxford University which has suggested half of Britain could already have been infected.” (link, paywalled)
Note: ‘controversial’ is something which questions the Ferguson-stats used by government, never mind the science and never mind that support for that hypothesis is appearing elsewhere. They must be COVID-19 Deniers because government and Ferguson are right, regardless:
“Professor Ferguson […] has disputed these findings. However, he estimates that effective social distancing will keep deaths below 20,000, with most fatalities in people who were likely to have died within a year anyway.” (link, paywalled)
So – the Lockdown is working, even though a huge number may have been infected and might be immune at the moment? It’s working even if “people would have died anyway”? Oh dear! Next:
“Professor Ferguson said that the outbreak was “at different stages in different parts of the country” and it has “not yet plateaued, so still the numbers can be increasing each day but the rate of that increase has slowed”.”(link, paywalled)
So now what? Are the numbers of hospital admissions declining or will they rise? And if there are different stages of outbreak in the country, was the nationwide Lockdown really such a ‘good thing’ – or is it ‘a good thing’ because Ferguson panicked the government into it and now has to defend it?
Meanwhile ‘at the home front’ it seems to be dawning on Police officers and politicians that just conceivably they’re overstepping the mark when searching shopping bags for non-essential items (link) and monitoring dog walkers with drones – how and when did they get those? Is this an incipient Police state, as Lord Sumption warns in this paywalled article in The Times, just as Nigel Farage does in his paywalled article in DT?
I cannot recall a time where we’ve been swamped in the MSM by emotional fluff pieces while attacking the government at a time of national crisis. At the same time, reasoned criticism of those vital statistics on which this devastating Lockdown are based is deemed to be unacceptable. The fact is that ‘our MSM’ are not doing their duty by reporting factually – and we know why!
So vigilance is the key, not just in regard to your personal health, but in regard to the MSM’s reports during this truly unprecedented national crisis. All MSM articles notwithstanding – two organisations will not come out well when this is over: ‘Our NHS’ and ‘Our Police’. The first signs can already be discerned.