Hello, and welcome to a special coronavirus edition of 5 Fibs.
If you read that intro and are still expecting to see something not wholly depressing, please say hello to this puppy then turn around and exit the article.
We only rate dogs. Unfortunately this is a tiny house hippo. Please send dogs. Thank you... 13/10 pic.twitter.com/CpuKqdnHxi— WeRateDogs® (@dog_rates) August 21, 2020
Still here? OK, let’s begin...
The false positives debacle
Our first fib comes courtesy of journalists Julia Hartley-Brewer and Toby Young who, along with a few others, promoted the apparently alarming statistic that 91% of coronavirus tests in the UK are “false positives”.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: Matt Hancock told me on @talkRADIO that the False Positive Rate of Covid tests in the community is "under 1%". Sounds good, doesn't it? WRONG!— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) September 18, 2020
An FPR of 0.8% when the virus prevalence is so low means that at least 91% of "Covid cases" are FALSE POSITIVES. https://t.co/f2Z85Lj4cj
Obviously this would be quite alarming if true – it would basically mean the pandemic isn’t really a pandemic and we’ve all been sitting in our homes under various forms of restrictions for months all for no reason.
But it isn’t true. You can read about it in detail here but it’s a bit lengthy so in short, Young and Hartely-Brewer are basing their wild claims on one article written by someone who got their maths a bit muddled.
Alas, they have yet to retract their claims and out in the real world it’s having an actual effect on the country’s ability to fight the pandemic.
A tier-2 contact-tracer (tougher-to-reach cases) just told me they're finding people citing the false positive rate back at them when justifying why they shouldn't self-isolate. Obviously, it's the moronic mAthS trUthErs who've just discovered Bayes, rather than a real thing.— Chris Cook (@xtophercook) September 24, 2020
Dominic Raab and ‘consistency’
On Wednesday Dominic Raab claimed the four UK nations have overwhelmingly taken a “consistent” approach to making decisions on how to tackle coronavirus.
Now we can’t be certain, but it would appear Raab is unaware of a little something called the historical record.
Armed with some tidbits from aforementioned record, Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford appeared on Sky News shortly after and preceded to dismantle the claim with the calm precision of a neurosurgeon.
He said: “Of course, we have done things differently in Wales, more cautiously, more slowly and answered many questions over the last few months about whether we should have done things more quickly.
“I think we’re glad now that we didn’t because in Wales I don’t need to take a number of the measures the PM had to announce for England yesterday because we’ve never been in that position.
“We’ve always had a policy of encouraging people to work from home wherever they can and we don’t need to go into reverse because that’s always been our policy.”
The four nations have also been out of step on a number of other major decisions:
- In May, Nicola Sturgeon asked the UK government not deploy its new “stay alert” message north of the border.
- In June, England published a list of countries on so-called “travel corridors” for holidaymakers. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales did not immediately follow suit, describing the move as “shambolic”.
- Scotland introduced mandatory face masks in shops on 10 July with England only following suit 13 days later
The PM and NHS Test and Trace
Wednesday was a big day for fibs, as Boris Johnson claimed testing and tracing has “very little or nothing to do with the spread and transmission” of coronavirus.
Again, that pesky historical record returns to bite the government on its collective Tory bottom because in May, when it was first touted, that very same collection of bottoms said it would “help identify, contain and control coronavirus, reduce the spread of the virus and save lives”.
And that’s it for this entry. Short, sweet and still managed to get the word “bottom” in three times.
The PM, again
Tuesday saw what has quickly become a portent of varying levels of doom as Johnson addressed the nation and invited everyone to live round his gaff when he said “we will get through this winter together”.
OK, that bit isn’t strictly accurate, but he did say this: “When the sickness took hold in this country in March, we pulled together in a spirit of national sacrifice and community. We followed the guidance to the letter. We stayed at home, protected the NHS, and saved thousands of lives.”
Just read that again. Yes, it does contain the words “we followed the guidance to the letter”.
Now one can only assume the PM is referring to the Great British Public and in no way including his own circle of colleagues and advisors which includes a certain Mr Cummings, who only followed the guidance to the letter after days of squirming and reinterpretation of exactly just which letters they were.
Cummings was under intense pressure to resign after he drove some 260 miles to Durham and made another trip to the town of Barnard Castle while there during lockdown in March.
He refused to resign and stuck to his decision. To the letter.
And so we come to our regular glance across the Atlantic to see what absolute nonsense President Trump has uttered this week and, even by his own standards, this week’s is quite something.
Speaking at a definitely-not-Covid-secure rally in Ohio, he said coronavirus only affects “elderly people with heart problems and other problems.”
He added: “That’s what it really affects. That’s it.”
"It affects virtually nobody," Trump says of the coronavirus, which has now killed 200,000 Americans and counting pic.twitter.com/qHrZvUWNhX— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 22, 2020
According to the CDC, some 400,000 people under the age of 18 have been infected with the coronavirus. While many cases were mild or even without symptoms, at least 576 patients under the age of 18 were hospitalised for the infection between March and July.
The president’s comments also contradicted his own past statements.
“It’s turning out it’s not just old people,” Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in March in comments that were only recently made public. “Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old – older. Young people, too. Plenty of young people.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.