Ministers ‘misleading public’ on virus tests
June 03 2020 01:22 AM
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Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a daily briefing to update on the coronavirus outbreak, at 10 Downing Street in London yesterday.

Guardian News and Media/London

The head of the UK Statistics Authority has accused the government of continuing to mislead the public over the numbers of tests carried out for Covid-19.
“The aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding,” said Sir David Norgrove in a letter to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock.
He upbraids the government for mixing up tests carried out with testing kits sent out by post. “This distinction is too often elided during the presentation at the daily press conference, where the relevant figure may misleadingly be described simply as the number of tests carried out.
There are no data on how many of the tests posted out are in fact then successfully completed,” he says in his letter.
Norgrove has a number of other criticisms of the way testing is carried out and the data presented to the public.
His letter is a second attempt to get more clarification from the government.
On May 11, he asked for more detail of the plans for 200,000 tests to be carried out in England every day.
It should be clear whether the target referred to testing capacity, the tests that have been administered, the test results received or the number of people tested, he wrote.
Hancock replied, welcoming Norgrove’s comments, saying he was publishing details of how the 200,000 tests would be counted.
“The programme is committed to being as transparent as possible about its work,” said Hancock. Dido Harding, who had taken over its leadership, “is keen to engage with you on how we ensure the right statistical reporting of the test and trace programme as it develops”, he wrote.
But Norgrove’s latest letter to the health secretary makes clear that his doubts have not been allayed.



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