Mr Speaker, yesterday the overall figures given by the government’s press conference
for those who have died from Covid-19 was 32,692—each one a tragedy. For many weeks,
the Government has compared the UK number against other countries. Last week, I showed
the Prime Minister his own slide showing that the UK now has the highest death total in
Europe and the second highest in the world. A version of this slide has been shown at
the No. 10 press conference every day since 30 March - that’s seven weeks. Yesterday,
the Government stopped publishing the international comparison, and the slide has gone. Why?
Mr Speaker, as he knows very well, the UK has been going through an unprecedented, once in a century
epidemic, and he seeks to make comparisons with other countries which I am advised are
premature, because the correct and final way of making these comparisons will be when we
have all the excess death totals for all the relevant countries. We do not yet have that data...
…And as for the international comparisons that he seeks to draw now
I think he will have to contain his impatience.
Well, I’m baffled. It’s not me seeking seeking to draw the comparisons;
these are the Government’s slides that they used for seven weeks to reassure
the public. The problem with the Prime Minister’s answer is that it’s pretty obvious that
for seven weeks, when we weren’t the highest number in Europe,
they were used for comparison purposes, as soon as we hit that
unenviable place, they’ve been dropped.
Last week he quoted, in defence, Professor Spiegelhalter.
What Professor Spiegelhalter said at the weekend was, and we need to think about it:
“we should…use other countries to try and learn why our numbers are so high”.
And so dropping the comparisons means dropping the learning, and that is the real risk.