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Monday, Oct 26, 2020

Stay at home message may have been ‘too successful’ as Brits fear leaving lockdown

The Government’s ‘stay at home’ message could be a victim of its own success, a leading statistician has suggested.
With polling data revealing that many Britons are fearful about easing the coronavirus lockdown, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter suggested the campaign may have been ‘slightly too successful’.

A recent survey for Ipsos Mori suggested that more than 60% of Britons would feel uncomfortable carrying out their normal daily activities – like going to bars or restaurants, or using public transport – if the lockdown is eased.

Sir David, of Cambridge University, suggested on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that low risk people are becoming overly anxious and added: ‘Maybe our whole campaign has been, if anything, slightly too successful.’

His intervention comes as the prime minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that he would lay out the next stage of lockdown planning next week – with the current restriction set to be reviewed on Thursday, May 7.

The government has previously said five tests must be met before lifting the lockdown and warned that it will not ease and restrictions if there is a risk of a second peak or overwhelming the NHS.

Globally, other countries have begun cautiously lifting their restrictions, with Britain slightly behind many other nations in imposing restrictions.

But Sir David also warned against taking a ‘Eurovision approach’ and making ‘naive comparisons’ in contrasting the UK with other countries’ Covid-19 deaths.

He added: ‘I think it’s too early to tell our exact place in the league table.

‘My article was arguing against this almost Eurovision approach of trying to say who’s top, who’s second and so on. I

‘It’s just not appropriate to do at all.’

He continued: ‘There are so many variabilities about how people record Covid deaths – even what the correct metric is for measuring the impact of the epidemic – that to start saying we’re going to be worse or whatever is completely inappropriate.’

Based on government data which now includes deaths in care homes, Britain looks to be on track to record the second highest rate death in the world, with 26,771 people dying as of yesterday. The USA is significantly ahead of all other nations on the count, while France, Spain and Italy are all on a similar course to the UK.

However, according to modelling by the Financial Times, Britain’s death toll could in fact have been as high as 47,000 on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, cautioned that ‘every country measures its cases differently.’

There are various issues with such comparisons, including when the deaths are reported, whether they only include hospital deaths and coronavirus is accurately recorded as a cause of death.
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