Alan Simpson: Honestly, we’re sick of statistics and just want to hear an exit strategy


ACCORDING to the famous quotation, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The original quote has been wrongly attributed to various people over time but Mark Twain is credited with popularising it.

Regardless of its origin, the phrase springs to mind when thinking about the overall response to the coronavirus pandemic and now the vaccine programme.

In recent weeks there has been a blizzard of statistics bandied about by government ministers and public health officials to justify various measures introduced to combat the virus.

Now there are more sets of statistics being thrown about like confetti to explain the success, or not, of the vaccine roll-out.

It is a classic tactic from politicians who always seem to resort to quoting stats to justify their intentions, even if they don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Now the same is happening with Covid as wildly differing statistics are used to emphasise the enormity of the situation even when they don’t appear to make any sense.

Every day, a set of grim statistics are read out with very little context and we, the public, are expected to trust them and carry on obeying the rules or things will get a lot worse.

But if you don’t back up figures with any context or offer up any further evidence can they really be trusted to reveal the whole truth?

As we enter the final straight in the long battle with the pandemic, what is increasingly clear is there is, as yet, no sign of any form of exit strategy. We are fed daily numbers of how many have been vaccinated and new targets set to vaccinate even more.

But what we haven’t heard is how many of the population need to be vaccinated before things can safely be opened up again. That has never been set out although it is the single most crucial point over the next few months.

Once that point is reached then businesses can re-open, people can move freely and at last things will get back to some sort of normality.

However, businesses have not been given any sort of estimate when that might be and so making concrete plans is well nigh impossible in the interim.

Many people believe things will begin to open up again by Easter, but the official line is restrictions will be reviewed every two weeks.

Then Scotland’s Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch gives the game away rather by telling civil servants not to book a holiday this summer as restrictions will still be in place for quite a while yet.

If that is the case then he should also inform the public and businesses that this will be the case so that proper planning can be done rather than leave us all dangling on a string. Now is the time for the exit strategy to be revealed: tell us how low rates have to go to be safe and how many need to be vaccinated so we can plan.

We’ve had enough of statistics, now we just need honesty.


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