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Covid data that led to second lockdown is quietly downgraded by half

Concerns have been raised about Covid-19 figures used by the Government to trigger a second national lockdown after they were dramatically lowered restrospectively.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has downgraded its estimate of the infection rate of coronavirus in England at the end of October by almost half.

In its report, which was used to provide key data to back the national restrictions, the ONS estimated that 9.52 people per 10,000 were catching the virus by October 17 – a considerable spike from 4.3 people on October 3.

This suggested infection rates were more than doubling each week and the prime minister was warned there was no other course of action, a lockdown must be imposed to get it under control.

However, the ONS’ latest report dated December 4 show the figures have been retrospectively dropped to 4.89 people per 10,000 by October 17 – around half of the original estimate.

The ONS’ weekly data reports are widely considered the most accurate analysis of coronavirus data in England and is thought to have had an impact on the Government’s decision to impose another lockdown.


A spokesperson for the ONS insisted it stands by its original figures and said as it collects more data, its analysis can be subject to change.

They told MailOnline: ‘Our official estimates of infections are the best estimates based on the data collected over the past eight weeks at date of publication.

‘We publish the full back-series of modelled estimates for transparency and these should not be considered “revised official estimates”. 

‘We have always advised people to use our official estimates as originally published as these are unaffected by the effects of policy changes that took place after publication.’

It comes after another set of data was retrospectively revised, after a team at Cambridge University initially predicted up to 4,000 deaths a day by the end of November if tougher restrictions were not put in place.

Rishi Sunak had warned the virus was ‘spreading even faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario of our scientific advisers’.

But figures predicted by the MRC Biostatistics Unit Covid-19 Working Group were later altered and said cases started falling in October due to a mixture of restrictions introduced that month along with ‘the temporary decrease in activity over the half-term period, and the lockdown.’  

Boris Johnson ordered the nation into a second month-long lockdown on November 5, before replacing it with the three-tier system on December 2.

The prime minister faced his biggest Tory rebellion by implementing the new tier system, with many calling for more transparency over the data that was driving the localised system.

The vast majority of the country was placed into tier two and three and ministers are expected to revise the restrictions on December 16, meaning some areas could move up or down.

London could be moved up to the toughest tier three restrictions, after cases rose in 24 boroughs.

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