’Your stats were NOT true!’ Sky’s Kay Burley grills minister on UK Covid projections

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Scenarios estimating 4,000 deaths a day from coronavirus presented when the Government announced a new English lockdown have been criticised by some experts. But another scientist said that even if those models were wrong, the country is still looking at 500 deaths a day in two to three weeks as a “best case” scenario, and warned that if nothing is done this could rise above 1,000 daily deaths before Christmas. Sky News host Kay Burley grilled the Business Minister on the statistics.

She said: “You gave us stats that were talking about 4,000 deaths a day and that stat has not been proven to be true.”

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Zahawi said: “That was a model.

“As the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said that is one model.

“There were several models and it was only right that we publish as much as possible to that people can see and other statisticians can look at.

“This is why we’re having this debate. People are looking at the modelling very, very carefully.

“But putting aside all the modelling, the real numbers of real people in hospital suffering with Covid, hundreds now dying.

“We were at about 50 deaths per day, we’re now at 300 deaths per day; that is far too high.

“The right thing to do is make this intervention and I’m certain the British people understand that.”

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University, said that the graphs used at Saturday’s Downing Street press conference with estimates of Covid deaths were based on models from three weeks ago.

In a blog post written with Dr Daniel Howdon, senior research fellow in health economics at the University of Leeds, Prof Heneghan said one of the models had since revised down its estimated number of deaths.

The pair said on Monday that the University of Cambridge and Public Health England (PHE) model had estimated 1,000 deaths by November 1 but Government data showed an average of “just over 200”.

The university’s MRC biostatistics unit has since revised its projected deaths down from 588 on October 30 to 497 on November 15, the pair added.


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Prof Heneghan and Dr Howdon said: “The slides leaked to the BBC on estimated Covid-19 deaths and presented at the Government press conference on the October 31 were based on different models from at least three weeks ago.

“Two SAGE model estimates have already proven to be invalid.

“We consider these analyses need checking with the raw data to verify the estimates against the actual death data and further verify whether the lower estimates reflect the actual data.”

Their comments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown in England on Saturday.

A spokesman for Sir Patrick Vallance told Express.co.uk the data was based on a number of modelling scenarios that are not forecasts or predictions but working analysis from earlier in October.

He said: “The working analysis was used to consider what challenging scenarios over the winter might look like if we don’t get the R below 1.

“This was used alongside the medium-term projections on hospital admissions and daily deaths – that were also presented in the slides on Saturday – which represent the latest consensus projections and incorporate the latest PHE data from 28th October. These show that, based on current trends, the previous peak could be exceeded in a matter of weeks.

“The PHE/Cambridge model is one of many models that SPI-M consider in their assessment of the trajectory of the epidemic.

“Further relevant papers and data will be published shortly by the Government.”

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