Every day since the world has plunged into chaos due COVID-19, I have been monitoring, and talking about the daily statistics Government have been releasing, to track and analyze the daily rises in total positive #Coronavirus cases and the more depressing day-on-day rise in deaths across the UK. (something I see Sky News has started doing today). By tracking the percentage rises (and in the future, I hope to see falls), it has helped me to track exactly how fast this Virus is spreading and the averages rise, which enables us to project into the near future. (with relative accuracy).
As well as tracking the total cases and deaths, I have also been recording the number of tests done in the UK, which is a very important statistic as it focuses on the amount of work Government is, or is not doing, to track and trace everyone who may have Coronavirus in the UK. Since I started tracking these statistics on the 19th March, while they are arguably quite low, they have always reconciled with the previous day’s released stats, this was until this Monday when the wheels on the Department of Healths statistics began to fall off.
Government publish the Coronavirus statistics daily to a page run by the Department of Health. To view all previously published a previous day’s statistics by the Department of Health, you need to use a service like ‘Wayback machine’, as the UK Government do not publish a history of the stats as they copy over the stats page with the new data every day.
Since Government started releasing daily Coronavirus statistics I have been tracking and analysing them and in that time the only statistics Government have been releasing on their website has been the statistics for “people tested” which referred to the number of tests done that day, “positive cases” which referred to the number of people who have tested positive, and the self-explanatory (and very delayed) registered “deaths”, that was until Monday the 6th April when things changed in the COVID-19 reporting.
Since Monday the 6th’s daily statistics release, the DoH (Department of Health) has decided to randomly introduce two new statistics to the mix, with one being the amounts of tests that were done in the last 24 hour reporting period (we had to work this out ourselves before), and a brand new, mysterious statistic called “tests”.
On Monday 6th April, the department reported that they had tested 13,069 people and that 252,958 “tests” had “concluded,” without any explanation as to what “tests” were and what they might refer to. What are “tests”? Is that the number of tests they have physically bought, failed, wasted, bought from Superdrug? We just dont know.
The only thing we do know about “tests” is that we are able to easily ascertain that they do not refer to the cumulative grand total of people who have been tested, as they have always been, and even within the data for the 6th, was referred to as “People tested”, so all we really know about “tests” is that the Department of Health reported 252,958 of them. In the same release, it was reported that the grand total of 208837 people had actually been tested up to that day. (its a bit of a head-twister, which is probably why it has been published in this way).
Also on the 6th April, Government reported in the same data release that they had “carried out” 13,069 tests in the last period. It is very interesting that this 13069 number was actually used in the same sentence as the number of “tests”, as opposed with the “people tested” statistic which it is directly linked.
It looks like DoH is trying to link the 13069 tests done in that period, with 252958 tests, which is fishy at best as, currently, there is no tangible link between the two statistics. This seems to have become a regular part of the daily statistics release, as on the 7th and 8th, the same tactic has been done, conflating the amounts of tests actually taken with the unrelated “tests” total.
More evidence of this conflation between “tests” and the total number of people actually tested, can be identified in how DoH is reporting the amounts of positive cases, as they report that “208,837 people have been tested, of whom 51,608 are positive”, clearly stating that the positive test results are coming from the lower number, as opposed the higher 252958 “tests” number and again illustrating a potential muddying of the waters in relation to the statistics on the UK’s COVID-19 testing and how much we are doing.
Another issue which is arising from the Governments testing statistics this week is liked to the counting of there totals. In a previous job reconciliations were my life, I was one of the great people who reconciled council tax billing and benefits accounts for a large council, so if there is one thing I know how to operate, its a spreadsheet, then reconcile it all back to 0. It is this latent need to make everything balance out which alerted me to a potentially bigger problem with the stats, the numbers simply do not add up!
Let’s start on this tangent by sticking with the 6th of April. In the opening sentence of the release, the DoH tells us that 13069 tests had been completed, and once we see past the spin, we see that they are reporting a total of 208,837 tests carried up to that period. The day before, on the 5th of April, Government reported that the total amount of tests carried out then was 195524.
It is here where my need to balance the numbers bared its teeth As we now knowhow many tests were done on that day, and the grand total amount of tests reported for the 5th and 6th, we should be able to take the total tests taken by people from the 6th and remove the number of tests taken that day, and the total from the previous day and end up back at 0, but this was not the case as we had a remainder of 244, and it turns out that if we go by the published DoH numbers, they tested 13,313, more than they took credit for!
Frustratingly since Monday, Government have kept releasing this new “tests” statistic with the clear intent of trying to conflate the number with the amounts of people who have actually been tested through their artistic use of sentence structure and framing, and possibly even more questionable (and personally annoying) is the constant conflation with the “tests” number and the amounts of people that have actually been tested, and the fact that the numbers simply are not balancing!
Let’s look at a few more examples of the Governments testing numbers not adding up (and some more raw data) then get to the conclusion. (Links supplied will use Wayback machine, as Government overwrite their stats page daily).
On Monday 6th (9 am 6th April stats) the Department of Health reported that they had tested 13,069 people, yet when we reconcile the 208,837 total with the day before’s total (195,524), we get 13,313.https://web.archive.org/web/20200407083130/https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
On Tuesday 7th April, (9 am 7th April stats) the Department of Health reported that they had tested 14,006 people, yet when we reconcile the 213,181 total with the day before’s total (208,837), we get only 4,344 completed tests.! https://web.archive.org/web/20200408010235/https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
Then, today, Wednesday 8th April (9 am 8th April stats) the Department of Health reported that they had tested 14,682 people, yet when we reconcile the 232,708 total with the day before’s total (213,181), we get only 19,527 completed tests, a lot higher than 14,682! https://web.archive.org/web/20200408163914/https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
In conclusion, the Government are not the best benchmark we have to judge what is going on, with everyone from Nicola Sturgeon to Nigel Farage pointing out how the stats are incorrect due to the lagged and seemingly laboured way which the Department of Health seem to be obtaining the data. The problem we have at the moment is that this is the only official source of data, so whether it is close to the truth, or miles from i, this sadly IS the current “truth” with anything else (other than a whistleblower leak) boiling down to invention of statistics and conspiracy theory.
While, we have to currently go with the data we are given by Government that does not mean we have to blindly accept them and any errors within them. Government has faced a lot of criticism on the general lack of Coronavirus testing being done in the UK (on top of the shouts for more PPE or their ignorance of the problem until mid-March), so it is curious that of all the stats which have stopped balancing out, and it is downright questionable that the Department of Health has suddenly decided to publish the daily amount, and conflate it with an unrelated, and much bigger number than the actual amount of COVID-19 tests which have been completed by UK Government. The pressure MUST be kept on Government to produce accurate stats, and to test MORE PEOPLE!
CoronaVirus is no joke, over 7000 people have died in the UK so far, and if the current projections stay true, we could be looking at over 10000 deaths by Monday! (this is something which I still do not want to believe, but as the last 7 days has played out, has stayed within a 10% margin of error).
What is very true, is that BBC. Sky News, LBC, ITV and every other mainstream media company, are reporting that we are at 14000 tests a day, which as of yet, is still not true, and even if it was true, the more of this muddying of the official stats we see, the easier the amounts that Government are reporting can be amplified.
Stevie – Catch me on Twitter @steviecabz