The Lack of COVID Data: And Why It’s A Problem

Following the local ‘lockdown’ in Leicester, lots of people – including newspaper editors – are anxious to answer the question ‘are we next?’.

The lack of reliable Government data poses two problems: firstly, making towns look worse than they are; and secondly making people question why they are in Lockdown.

Data in the UK is disclosed on the Coronavirus data service . Let’s look at what we can see. Here’s Leicester – completely unremarkable. So what’s going on?

The data here is from Public Health England – but crucially this only is the so-called Pillar 1 data – from PHE and the NHS hospital labs. By far the majority of testing is done by Pillar 2 – NHS Test and Trace and the commerial testing operations.

Pillar 1 can pick up spikes in hospitals but crucially it does not pick up community outbreaks. For this we need the Pillar 2 data. And we don’t have it.

The only source is PHE’s surveillance report – the latest being Week 26 (week ending 25 June 2020)

Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/895356/Weekly_COVID19_Surveillance_Report_w26.pd

Here we can see Leicester as a red area, denoting more than 45 cases per week. But there are many other areas where there are many cases. Why are they not being locked down? The answer is – we don’t know, because we don’t have the data. And the data has only been released to Directors of Public Health in local councils very recently – and even then only to those that have signed a data protection record. In some ways, having a map with partial data is less use than having no map at all.

Data has been a real issue with the handling of the pandemic, with the Prime Minister launching a new version of the Coronavirus data dashboard last Thursday .  But even here, on this brand new dashboard, we see that the Government is showing that there have been no hospital admissions since 16 June.  This is plainly wrong, and needs to be fixed immediately. Without the confidence in the data, the public will be hard pressed to see why new lockdown measures need to be introduced, with the reduced compliance with those measures that that will bring


3 thoughts on “The Lack of COVID Data: And Why It’s A Problem”

  1. We need this data daily so that we the public know what’s going on in our area. This will also help more public cooperation in more affected Areas

  2. Thank you for taking the trouble to write this lucid explanation. Having come across your posts via Twitter I shall now look back at your reflections and follow future posts.

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