Figures – and explanations – shift, change and disappear altogether
The government has withheld data for the number of people tested for the last eight consecutive days, as today’s deadline approached for Boris Johnson’s promise of 200,000 tests a day to be tested for coronavirus to be met.
Starting 24 May – reporting on the previous day’s performance – the number of people tested has been ‘unavailable’:
Every day since, the page has shown the same, as the Wayback Machine archive proves – and today’s page, showing yesterday’s performance, is no different:
The previous available data for people tested suggests that the government is testing not much more than half as many people per day as the number of tests it claims to have carried out, so it’s likely that even last month’s promise of just 100,000 people a day is still not being met:
At the bottom of the page the government attempts to explain the absence of a number for people tested – but that explanation itself has changed at least once:
And over the last few days, the government has started to add a new figure – for testing ‘capacity‘. This appeared, for the first time ever, on Wednesday, having not been there the day before or on any day previously:
This change appears to be preparation for Johnson to claim he fulfilled his Commons promise. While during Prime Minister’s Questions he said there would be 200,000 tests a day, his panicked spin team quickly put out a briefing that what he meant was ‘capacity’ of 200,000 a day. But capacity is amorphous and unprovable, allowing Johnson to claim whatever he wants.
And for good measure, having for weeks reported hospital and non-hospital deaths separately – and facing justified horror at the number of people in care homes that its approach has killed – the government will now merge both figures, so it won’t have to show details during its daily press conferences:
Boris Johnson rashly claimed in the Commons that by the end of May the government would be performing 200,000 tests a day by today. Even though that test was immediately watered down by his spin team, it appears that the number of people tested would show that testing has hardly increased at all – so that number has, for ‘reasons’ that appear to be variable, conveniently disappeared entirely from the government’s official data for more than the week before the deadline.
And at the same time, now divorced from any sense-checking by the absence of the ‘people tested’ numbers, a new ‘capacity’ number has miraculously appeared.
The government has been shown to have moved the goalposts at the end of April so Johnson and Hancock could lie about meeting their 100,000-people-a-day promise. If anyone feels inclined to believe the above shifts and omissions are not preparation for Johnson to make another bogus claim of ‘success’ tomorrow, I’m sure there will be a queue of people offering to sell you a bridge.
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