Row breaks out over whether it’s now time to ditch daily Covid stats

10 February 2022, 08:22 | Updated: 10 February 2022, 08:32

The row over daily updates erupted after the PM announced plans to ditch all restrictions, including isolating for people with covid.
The row over daily updates erupted after the PM announced plans to ditch all restrictions, including isolating for people with covid. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

A fierce row has broken out about whether it is time for the government to stop giving daily covid statistics to help people move on from the virus and start returning to normal life.

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The government currently publishes daily statistics on the number of new cases of coronavirus, the number of hospitalisations and the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

It also publishes the number of people who are vaccinated each day.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning, former cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: "I'm completely in favour of moving away [from daily statistics.]"

He said: "I think the way things are going now we are going to have to learn to live with it."

Sir Iain criticised the BBC for continuing to publish the figures: "I’ve been really puzzled why the BBC keeps on flogging this thing the whole time, and then having to accept that the figures aren’t altogether correct."

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He added: "Much of those figures, or a significant amount, probably died from other causes."

The former cabinet minister referred to the fact that daily death figures include anyone who died within 28 days of a positive covid test, regardless of the cause of death.

He said: "If we’re going to publish covid figures for deaths and for hospitalisations, surely we should be publishing the figures for everything else as well while we’re at it, because otherwise the public is skewed in this idea that somehow only covid is the cause of a death.

"Those figures don’t tell us anything really that informs how we behave."

But critics of the PM have accused him of using covid statistics and restrictions as a tool to distract from the Partygate scandal.

They claim he has lost control of No10 following a wave of resignations, including his Chief of Policy, last week.

The daily number of cases and deaths has been steadily dropping in recent weeks, after reaching a new peak in January.

It is the main way for the public to keep track of the pandemic within the UK.

Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted at plans to get rid of self-isolation for people with covid from the end of the month.

He confirmed he will appear before the Commons before the end of February and set a plan for "Living With Covid", around a month earlier than planned.

Sources told the i newspaper the PM wants to phase out daily updates in the current form by Easter at the latest.

Read more: UK puts 1,000 troops on standby to help Ukraine refugees as Boris and Truss fly out

At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Johnson said: "It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid.

"Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions - including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive - a full month early."

But many of those who are clinically vulnerable have expressed concerns over the plans.

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