There are crucial data gaps available to map England’s response to Covid-19, according to researchers who have developed an interactive visual tool condensing disparate streams of publicly available information to help the public understand the numbers .
The one-stop-shop dashboard – developed by an interdisciplinary research team at University College London (UCL) – revealed substantial gaps in the quality, consistency and availability of the reliable numbers needed to manage the pandemic.
For example, there is no routine data collected on how well the 14-day isolation requests are being met, making it virtually impossible to know how effective the NHS test and trace is in reducing the transmission. The number of people self-isolating with symptoms in England is also unknown, and there is also no data on who needs or is receiving any support, the researchers said.
“We don’t know what percentage of people with symptoms and a positive test actually isolate themselves for the entire time, and we don’t know about their contacts and that’s really important because, if people don’t ‘not insulate, then it’s kind of a window covering,’ said Christina Pagel, a professor at UCL, who is part of the team behind the scoreboard.
Less than 20% of people in England completely self-isolate when asked to do so, documents from the government’s science advisory group for emergencies revealed in September.
Another key issue, Pagel said, is the lack of granular local data from NHS Test and Trace. “It has been suggested that in the northwest they have reached fewer contacts and fewer cases and that is obviously very important,” she says. “This kind of regional variation is something we would really like to include not only in the testing we have, but also in the contact tracing.”
The publicly available data used in the dashboard comes from sources such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the NHS, but some statistics are released daily and some weekly.
“Our dashboard can be continuously updated – to illustrate how these data elements should be viewed in the context of the overall pandemic,” said UCL professor Deenan Pillay, the one of its developers.
“What we’re also trying to do is find out the internal logic of why testing, tracing, and isolation is important,” he added.
“I think the way the pandemic has developed and the response in the UK, it’s easy for people to become… disenchanted with continual demands, for example, isolation, without a continued appreciation of why it is. ‘is important.
“I think we should trust people with data,” Pagel added. “If we ended up with thousands of salon statisticians, that would be great. I think our problem as a population is that people don’t engage with the data, don’t engage with the evidence enough and if we can encourage them, we should go. ”
One thing she noticed when looking at the big picture was the large number of cases lost due to the focus on screening symptomatic people. “It just highlights the fact that it’s something we should be considering.”