English COVID data patchy, researchers say, as new dashboard launched

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective mask walks near an informational poster, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Warrington, Britain September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington

LONDON (Reuters) - There are significant problems with the availability and quality of COVID-19 data in England, British researchers said on Wednesday as they launched a dashboard to help make sense of the patchwork of stats.

The COVID Response Evaluation Dashboard (COVID RED) presents available statistics from Public Health England (PHE), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the National Health Service (NHS) and also highlights where more data are needed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has introduced a three-tier system of local lockdowns for England in a bid to tackle local flare-ups in infections while avoiding a new national lockdown.

“Increasing volumes of data are being shown in the media and in government press conferences as a basis for local tightening of restrictions,” said Professor Christina Pagel of University College London, who co-developed the dashboard.

“However, these data are often from disparate sources and are not linked together to give a more complete picture of how we are doing. This was the motivation behind our dashboard development.”

The researchers said there were gaps in information over whether confirmed COVID-19 cases were followed up, the number of people isolating with symptoms in England, and about the number of people needing or receiving support.

They added that often the best available data was up to two weeks old, adding that local lockdowns could only be informed by the most up-to-date information.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison