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Scaredemic? UK Government Admits to Publishing Wrong Data in Graph Used to Justify Lockdown

© REUTERS / SIMON DAWSONGulls fly as the parliament is seen during sunset, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London
Gulls fly as the parliament is seen during sunset, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London - Sputnik International
The United Kingdom has introduced lockdown restrictions for the second time in order to help curb the rising coronavirus cases seen across the country.

The British government has admitted on Friday that a graph used at an official press conference to justify introducing an England-wide lockdown was false.

Displayed at Boris Johnson’s televised briefing last Saturday, the graph projected that 1,500 deaths daily could take place in England by early December if further action was not taken. Now the number has been reduced to 1,000 deaths a day by 8 December.

​However, a spokesperson for Downing Street insisted that the mistake had no impact on the underlying analysis from the prime minister’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) that increased restrictions are required in order to avoid hospital admissions and death numbers surpassing the peak seen during the first wave of coronavirus.

The No 10 spokesperson rebuked suggestions that the error in the Sage modeling group SPI-M indicated a premature move to place England into lockdown as medium-term projections remained unchanged.

However, the line showing the higher-end range for potential hospitalisations has been dropped from 9,000 to 6,000 a day.

“In the specific graph, SPI-M’s central medium-term projections remain the same for admissions of the next six weeks", the spokesperson said. “But we accept there was a mistake in plotting the confidence intervals … which we corrected as soon as it was identified".

He added that there was "no error in the underlying analysis" and the data still shows "and the consensus remains that without action we would breach the first-wave hospital admissions and deaths within a matter of weeks".

The spokesperson also rejected claims that the test used in the government's aim of reaching widespread mass Covid testing - known as 'Operation Moonshot' - was incapable of being successful as it missed over 50% of positive cases in a Salford trial. 

According to the spokesperson, the 20-minute Lamp tests, which the government has spent £323m on, have been trialled in three other labs and have reported back almost 80% sensitivity, reaching 96% among those carrying a high viral load.

The Lamp test is not being administered as part of the mass testing regime in Liverpool, where locals are being offered “lateral flow” rapid-turnaround tests along with regular swabs.

​The admission follows chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, who Boris Johnson remains fully confident in according to the spokesperson, being given a public warning from the Office for Statistics Regulation regarding using statistics to provide support for lockdown.

Ed Humpherson, ODR director general for regulation, cautioned of public confusion by the possibility of 4,000 daily deaths, and ultimately undermine confidence in official data.

Due to the apparent confusion, NHS Chief Sir Simon Stevens used a minimal data presentation at the Prime Minister's press briefing on Thursday to relay information on hospital capacity to the public.

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