On Friday Guido reported on SNP MP Stewart Hosie claiming England at that time had a higher Covid prevalence than Scotland. Guido argued this was wrong as government dashboard data showed England to be at the bottom of the league table for Covid rates per 100,000 on that day, despite fewest restrictions. Later that day FullFact took Guido to task over these claims.
They said Guido was wrong to assert that the SNP’s “Covid prevalence stats were not true”. On reflection it would have been more precise to say that the SNP’s “Covid prevalence stats were not up-to-date”. We have amended the original article accordingly and deleted a tweet which described the claim as a “falsehood”.
The former Guardian hack who wrote the piece, Leo Benedictus, compared Guido’s use of the Covid dashboard data with the ONS infection survey and said the latter is more reliable. This is arguable given the ONS data is older and less up to date. It will, therefore, in a rapidly changing environment be less likely to reflect the latest situation than the latest dashboard data.
While Guido accepts it was unfair to say the the ONS data itself was statistically or factually incorrect, this was not the point he intended to make. The SNP’s continued use of data that only went up to the 31st December 2021 – when the picture across the country continued to change so rapidly thereafter – was out of date and no longer the correct Covid picture in the UK by the time Hosie repeated the claim on Thursday.
Adjusted figures from the Financial Times of new confirmed cases however show Scotland overtook England’s rates on January 1st – the day after the period covered by the ONS survey used by the SNP – before quickly rising and peaking at over 38 cases per 100,000 higher than England on January 4th. No doubt there will be keen interest in the ONS survey data covering this same period to see just how comparatively inaccurate the government’s own Covid dashboard is, as FullFact claim. What is clear is Sturgeon leapt to enact harsh restrictions, hurting people in the hospitality industry, and barely changing the Covid rate outcome north of the border. That now seems to have proved unnecessary.