I have always wondered how the government calculated the R number. It is a measure of how many people a single person will infect. I thought it was calculated mathematically. But this article by Ed Conway of the times reveals all.
Numbers influence social policy, says Ed Conway, but none have had such a huge impact on our lives as the “R number”. We know it’s a measure of how many people, on average, someone with Covid is likely to infect. We know it determines whether lockdown can be lifted. Yet few know how it’s calculated.
Far from deriving from some data-crunching formula, it’s the product of negotiation. Every week a group of academics from 11 different institutions meet online, each making a case for what he or she suspects the reproduction rate to be. These judgment calls, which often differ wildly, are then combined into a kind of average… and hey presto. R is effectively an educated guess.
Experts are baffled that ministers set such store by it: “no other leading nation” has let it dictate policy in this way. But having been slated at the start of the pandemic for failing to follow the science, the Government overcompensated: it thought that fixating on a “scientific” metric like R would silence the critics. Yet there’s nothing scientific about investing a single data point with more relevance than it deserves.
Back in May 2020 i assumed they government had some super algorithm that they did not publish. I was unaware that it was educated guesswork. This means that the figure is prone to the biases, probably well meaning, of the academics, who will massage the figures in what they consider is the best public interest.
I reality it is fake news, disinformation or lies.
My advice is to simply ignore these pontifications and instead look at the data.
The government’s estimate of the national R Rate is between 0.7 and 1. So maybe the cases are coming down or maybe not, but they are not going up. So maybe the lockdown is working a bit??
The government’s own site helpfully tells us the change in cases and deaths (as well as hospital admissions and vaccinations). Today, 1st Feb 2021, cases have fallen 32% in the last week. This is a hard cold fact. Cases have gone down by 32%. This is faster than the first lockdown. The lockdown is working.
A comparison with other countries
UK cases have been falling since week ending 10th Jan. After Ireland’s disastrous Christmas spike cases have fallen rapidly. It also seems that the last week as seen a fall in cases in Portugal
Two weeks after the cases begin to fall we see deaths beginning to fall, but we still have the highest rate in the world after Portugal. The latter’s death rate should be due to plateau soon.
Ireland’s death rate is coming down. The relaxation of restrictions at Christmas has raised Ireland’s total number of deaths since the pandemic began by 50% – which is 1000 deaths and the spike is not over.
So really have to continue to lockdown to finally get out of this mess of our governments making.