One of the main problems hampering the Government’s ability to make sensible decisions about regional lockdowns is access to timely data. Fewer than one third of tests are coming back in 48 hours, and on Sunday that figure had fallen to 16 per cent.

Recent problems have led to major revisions that have entirely changed the trajectory of the pandemic. Couple that with the weekly problem of cases and deaths not being recorded properly at the weekend, and it is difficult to know what is happening.

Professor Sheila Bird, formerly programme leader of the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge, said a “statistically competent” weekly presentation of the data was needed to allow better decision-making.

She said there was too much information coming from different bodies and called for not only the number of cases and tests to be published but also the percentage of people testing positive so it was possible to tell how much of the increase was caused by more testing.

“A weekly update, as Professor Sir Liam Donaldson did during swine flu would be really helpful for public understanding,” said Prof Bird.

The public is being left bewildered by late and erroneous data that frequently needs revision, and millions of people face being locked down on unreliable and often wilfully misinterpreted statistics. 

The Government is close to losing public trust and, with that, public compliance. If that happens, it may sadly get its apocalyptic intensive care predictions after all. 

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