Public warned against ‘Eurovision’ comparisons between UK and Europe over coronavirus deaths

PUBLISHED: 12:59 01 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:59 01 May 2020

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance,  Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photograph: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire.

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photograph: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire.

A statistician has urged against comparisons between the UK and Europe over the numbers of coronavirus deaths.

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While the UK is currently on a trajectory of having the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in Europe, professor Sir David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University warned against taking a “Eurovision approach” and making “naive comparisons”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s too early to tell our exact place in the league table.

“My article was arguing against this almost Eurovision approach of trying to say who’s top, who’s second and so on. It’s just not appropriate to do at all.

“There are so many variabilities about how people record Covid deaths - even what the correct metric is for measuring the impact of the epidemic - that to start saying we’re going to be worse or whatever is completely inappropriate.”


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The expert also said that the government’s ‘stay at home’ messaging was ‘slightly too successful’.

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“It’s much harder to frighten to people to stay at home than it is to reassure them they can go out again.

“Maybe our whole campaign has been, if anything, slightly too successful.”

The comments followed a poll which found two-thirds of Britons would feel uncomfortable attending large public gatherings, like sports events or concerts.

An Ipsos Mori survey suggested that more than half of Britons would feel uncomfortable carrying out their usual activities if the lockdown is eased.

It suggests the public is nervous about a quick return to normality, with 61% saying they would feel uncomfortable using public transport or going to bars and restaurants.

Young people are most at ease with going to bars and restaurants, 36% of 18-34-year olds would feel comfortable doing so, compared to only 22% of 55-75s.

Earlier this week it was reported that Boris Johnson was looking to axe the messaging as the prime minister looks at easing the lockdown.

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