Anger flared last night after the Department of Health and Social Care’s Twitter account was used in an effort to rubbish a report challenging official scaremongering by analysing key facts about the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the headline ‘Covid: What They Don’t Tell You’, a two-page article in yesterday’s Daily Mail raised multiple questions about the manner in which the Government has dealt with the crisis.
It pointed out that Government predictions on the number of the potential deaths from the virus were wildly inaccurate. In a July report commissioned by Chief Medical Officer Sir Patrick Vallance, scientists predicted that there could be 119,000 fatalities if a second wave coincided with a peak of winter flu – but the actual figure has so far turned out to be less than half of that.
The article also pointed out the number of deaths are not far above average for this time of year and that only 31 per cent of intensive care unit beds in hospitals are currently occupied by Covid patients.
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The Health Department’s Twitter attack on the Mail: MPs and commentators have praised the report challenging the government’s handling of the crisis
But last night a post on the department’s Twitter account declared: ‘This article is misleading.
‘This is a global pandemic – national restrictions have been introduced to keep people safe and save lives. It is vital people follow the rules and continue to stay at home so we can bring the transmission rates back down and get back to normality.’
Last night, leading Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith rebuked the Department of Health – telling it to get on with its job of looking after people’s health and stop criticising newspapers.
The former Tory leader praised the Daily Mail report as ‘good journalism’ and said it was right to look beneath the official figures which ‘ultimately do not help the public understand the nature of the disease.’
‘The Daily Mail is right to highlight the problems with the [official] figures that are being produced. It’s what good journalism is about. With respect to the DoH, I really don’t think they should spend their time arguing with newspapers but get on with their job of making sure they are ready to help when patients need it.’ Iain Duncan Smith
He said: ‘The Daily Mail is right to highlight the problems with the [official] figures that are being produced. It’s what good journalism is about.
‘With respect to the DoH, I really don’t think they should spend their time arguing with newspapers but get on with their job of making sure they are ready to help when patients need it.’
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Tories 1922 backbench committee, signalled that it was not the Department of Health’s job to stifle debate on tackling the virus. ‘Our British tradition is that the people tell government what it can do – not the other way round,’ he said. ‘It’s essential that we have an open, national debate about the best way to tackle Covid-19 and everybody should be free to contribute to that.’
Meanwhile, the Department of Health came under fire itself on Twitter last night. Ex-England footballer Matt le Tissier wrote: ‘Slightly desperate sounding tweet’.
Carol McGiffin, of ITV’s Loose Women tweeted: ‘How? Exactly? No it IS NOT a global pandemic. It has nothing at all to do with ‘keeping people safe and saving lives’ and you know it?!!!’.
Allison Pearson, the Daily Telegraph columnist, remarked: ‘Is this a spoof? I fear it’s the actual Department of Health…’ And Talk Radio presenter Mike Graham said: : ‘Why is it misleading? Are the figures for hospital beds, for death rates all wrong? Are the SAGE predictions not WRONG?’
Talk Radio presenter Mike Graham said: : ‘Why is it misleading? Are the figures for hospital beds, for death rates all wrong? Are the SAGE predictions not WRONG?’
Carol McGiffin, of ITV’s Loose Women condemned the government’s post
Allison Pearson, the Daily Telegraph columnist, remarked: ‘Is this a spoof? I fear it’s the actual Department of Health
Other anonymous tweets said: ‘They really do think we’re stupid. Why don’t they detail specifically which parts are untrue?’ and ‘How desperate is this government department to attack a newspaper.’
In June, the head of the UK Statistics Authority accused the Government of continuing to mislead the public over the numbers of tests carried out for Covid-19.
And earlier this month, Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi promised that the Government will ‘listen very carefully … and make sure we respond accordingly’ after the Statistics Authority said there was a danger that confidence in official figures could be undermined if they were not ‘supported by transparent information being provided in a timely manner’.
The criticism followed the presentation of data at a press conference where the Prime Minister announced England would be going into lockdown.
Key features of many of the models presented in the news conference were not published on the Government website, so it was not possible for anyone to see how they were created.
What they DON’T tell you about Covid: Fewer beds taken up than last year, deaths a fraction of the grim forecasts, 95% of fatalities had underlying causes… and how the facts can be twisted to strike fear in our hearts
By Ross Clark
With the nation’s health at stake, it was revealed this week that GCHQ has embedded a team in Downing Street to provide Boris Johnson with real-time updates to combat the ‘emerging and changing threat’ posed by Covid-19.
The intelligence analysts will sift through vast amounts of data to ensure the Prime Minister has the most up-to-date information on the spread of the virus.
But what exactly should Mr Johnson be looking for? Here, ROSS CLARK reveals what he should be asking…
How accurate were the Government’s grim predictions?
The short answer is: not very. In a July report commissioned by Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, scientists estimated that there could be 119,000 deaths if a second spike coincided with a peak of winter flu. Yesterday, that figure stood at 54,286 – less than half that.
In fact, the second peak seems to have passed – over the past week there has been an average of 22,287 new infections a day, down from 24,430 the week before.
In mid-September, Sir Patrick made the terrifying claim that the UK could see 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October unless more draconian restrictions were introduced. Yet we have never got near that figure.
What about its prophecies on deaths?
Ditto. Its warnings simply don’t bear any relation to reality.
During the ‘Halloween horror show’ press conference used by Sir Patrick and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty to scare the Government into implementing a second lockdown, one of their slides suggested that daily Covid-19 deaths could reach 4,000 a day by December.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, pictured on October 31, when the second national lockdown was announced, had shown a slide predicting up to 4,000 deaths a day by December. But with ten days to go, we’re still at less than 15 per cent of that figure
With ten days to go, we’re still at less than 15 per cent of that figure. In fact, as the graph above shows, the current death rate is significantly below almost every modelled winter scenario.
Are hospitals close to full capacity?
The answer is ‘no’ – contrary to what the Government experts would have you think after they last month published a chart that gave the impression that hospitals were close to overflowing, when at least half didn’t have a single Covid-19 patient.
Currently, only 13 per cent of NHS beds are occupied by patients with Covid-19.
On Monday this week, 16,271 hospitals beds across the UK were taken up with patients who had tested positive for Covid-19.
On Monday this week, 16,271 hospitals beds across the UK were taken up with patients who had tested positive for Covid-19, a steady rise from last Monday, when there were 14,279 Covid patients. Remarkably, the number of NHS England beds currently occupied is lower than last year’s average
This did show a steady rise from the previous Monday, when there were 14,279 patients with Covid.
But to put this figure into perspective, the NHS in England had 101,255 general and acute beds available in March of this year plus 15,392 in Scotland and 10,563 in Wales.