The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) said there was a risk that confidence in the official figures would be shaken if they were not “backed up by transparent information provided in a timely manner”.
Asked about the government’s use of data today, Boris Johnson said: “We are trying to make things as clear as possible”, although he acknowledged that “projections vary considerably” and that there was also “political judgment” to be made to take into account economic factors.
Mr Johnson said some of the facts were ‘irrefutable’, such as the number of deaths and people in hospital.
“I cannot dispute this data, we have to act on this data and collectively this is what we are going to do,” he said.
The UKSA warning follows a controversy over data presented at Saturday’s Downing Street press conference when the Prime Minister announced England would be on lockdown.
The main features of many of the models presented at the press conference were not published on the government website, so it was not possible for anyone to see how they were created.
In a statement, the UKSA said it was essential for the UK government to use the statistics “in a way that promotes transparency and clarity” by clearly indicating the source of the information and the full figures behind it.
In a blog posted alongside the UKSA statement, Mary Gregory, deputy director of regulation at the Office for Statistics Regulation – the part of UKSA that regulates statistics in the UK – referred directly to the Saturday press conference.
She said it did not meet its standard for sharing data.
Ms Gregory criticized the Prime Minister’s reference to the “reasonable worst case scenario”, a model used for operational planning, when “the data and assumptions of this model had not been shared transparently”.
She also criticized some of the UK’s decentralized governments for their presentation of data.
Welsh Prime Minister Mark Drakeford had posted slides on Twitter rather than the government website, she said, adding that the hospital’s capacity was not regularly posted in Scotland.
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In its statement, UKSA identified a series of steps governments should take to support confidence in data.
The regulator said: “It is clear that those working on the pandemic are facing significant pressures.
“But full transparency is vital for public understanding and confidence in statistics and those who use them. ”
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Our approach throughout this unprecedented global pandemic has been to increase transparency around the government’s response to the coronavirus. ”
They added: “We continue to work hard to improve the data we publish where necessary, and our efforts and statistical reports have been recognized by the UK Statistics Authority, which said” there is a process for improvement. keep on going ” . “