Skip to main content

Statistician blasts government’s Covid-19 press conferences as ‘completely embarrassing’

A STATISTICS expert has criticised the government’s daily press conference as a “number theatre,” starving the public of genuine information on coronavirus in Britain.

Today Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter slammed the press briefings as “completely embarrassing.”

He said that statistics should instead be presented by people who know the strength and limitations of the data and that could “treat the audience with respect.”

The chairman of the University of Cambridge’s Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that it was extraordinary that it was not known how many people have had Covid-19, and he criticised the government for inflating figures of how many tests are carried out per day.

Prof Spiegelhalter said: “We get told lots of big numbers, precise numbers of tests being done: 96,878.

“Well, that’s not how many were done yesterday — it includes tests that were posted out.

“We’re told 31,587 people have died. No, they haven’t: it’s far more than that.

“It’s such a missed opportunity,” he said. “The public out there who are broadly very supportive of the measures — they’re hungry for details, for facts, for genuine information.

“Yet they get fed this what I call ‘number theatre,’ which seems to be co-ordinated really much more by a No 10 communications team rather than genuinely trying to inform people about what’s going on.”

Daily test numbers have been boosted by the inclusion of those sent out to people and conducted in drive-through centres that have yet to yield results.

Ministers set arbitrary targets of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April and 200,000 tests by the end of May.

The 100,000 target was only met once, on April 30, and only then by the Tories’ flawed accounting.


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 10,222
We need:£ 7,778
13 Days remaining
Donate today