Britain is doing more #COVID19 testing than any other country in Europe. Really! So how on earth are we now in a situation where the testing system is on its knees just at the very moment we most need it?
Here's my longish read about what went wrong: news.sky.com/story/coronavi…
I've spoken to lots of people involved in testing and three critical decisions stand out:
1. Scarred by the events of spring @DHSCgovuk vowed to ensure care homes got enough tests this time. Prudent decision but upshot is 100k of the 250k daily usable capacity has been eaten up.
2. Govt committed to getting pupils back to school but underestimated the surge of demand for testing from students. Some schools have firm rules that every fever => test. About half of the recent rise in test requests is from schools. Tests for kids aged 5-15 quadrupled.
3. The working assuming in @DHSCgovuk was that if there was a surge in cases it wouldn't come til Oct/Nov. But #covid19 spread faster both in Europe and here than they anticipated. And quarantine didn't stem the spread as much as they hoped.
Perhaps testing would have held up if just one or two of the above had been the case. But all three happening at once has short circuited the system. And since they were expecting the peak in Oct/Nov, new capacity (500k tests) isn't due to arrive until then 😦
In the meantime @DHSCgovuk plans to rely much more on behavioural rules (rule of 6 etc) than the forensic control and analysis it was hoping to get from test and trace. The next few weeks will be v nervy since with testing in trouble officials worry we are flying in the dark...
I'm informed that the avg cost @DHSCgovuk is paying per test is around £100. Crude calculation wld imply that we have already spent £2bn on tests and if testing is near capacity in the coming six months test and trace will have pretty much burnt through its £10bn budget by spring
Bad luck, miscalculation and one or two poor decisions. Combine it all and you're halfway towards understanding what's gone wrong with Britains #COVID19 testing system. @SkyNews long read here: news.sky.com/story/coronavi…

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More from @EdConwaySky

21 Sep
You’ll probably see this chart a lot today. It’s the one @uksciencechief just showed at the @10DowningStreet briefing today. It’s v v scary & implies if the current growth rate of #COVID19 continues we'll face 49k cases a day by mid October. So. Is this really plausible...?
Well in strict mathematical terms, yes it is. Exponential growth rates are scary. This is precisely the problem with diseases like #COVID19. In the first wave deaths were for a time doubling every 3/4 days. Here's what that chart might look like if we followed last wave. Scarier!
But here's the big problem with @uksciencechief's scary illustrative chart: it's predicated on two presumptions. 1) that we are indeed seeing the disease double every 7 days. 2) it presumes that growth rate will continue. There are quite important challenges to both assumptions.
Read 10 tweets
18 Sep
THREAD: More than 4,000 new #COVID19 cases in the UK in the past 24 hours. More than 14k in Spain.
These numbers are clearly making a lot of people scared.
But has anything changed since I said it's not yet time to panic?
Quick recap:
I've been making three points:
1. yes cases are rising, but so far nowhere as fast as in spring.
2. UK following v much in Spain & France's footsteps - so we get a sneak preview of where we're heading
3. News from France/Spain backs up point 1: #COVID not taking off like Spring
Has any of that changed? After all, we've had some big new numbers in this week.
And problems with the testing system prompted some to ask whether the case figures this is all based on can be trusted anyway - eg maybe #COVID19 is spreading far faster than the official UK figs.
Read 10 tweets
18 Sep
🧵Since it's Friday, I want to tell you a story that has nothing to do with COVID or lockdowns or any of that. A story of human ingenuity that boggles the mind. It begins with this, @apple's latest product launch this week apple.com/apple-events/s…
Now, on the face of it this keynote was a less exciting than usual. No new iPhones or Macs. Just an upgraded watch and new mid-range iPad. But anyway for me the most interesting bit of these presentations is the bit about the chips. You know: the bit where we go into the lab...
And this time around the news from the lab is genuinely exciting. The A14 chip going into the new iPad (and the new iPhone once they announce that) is built out of transistors measuring five nanometres. This is truly amazing.
Read 19 tweets
15 Sep
A further 3,105 #COVID19 cases in the UK over the past 24 hours. UK trajectory following pretty much bang in line with France & Spain. Should we be panicking already...? Quick thread (and short answer: no)
As in Mar/Apr, UK's epidemic seems to be following closely France & Spain. And what we are learning from there is that cases & deaths are rising but much less rapidly than in Apr/May. Just compare the death trajectories: Spain this time vs last time (the two yellow lines here)
Side note: why am I using deaths to compare this episode with last time around👆? Because last time there was so little testing that the existing case figs don't give a good indication of the prevalence of the disease. So grisly as it is, deaths are a better yardstick
Read 12 tweets
7 Sep
2,948 new cases of #COVID19 in the latest 24 hours. So the UK now has more than 20 cases per 100k people, the threshold at which we tend to impose quarantines on other countries.
Time to panic? Not quite. A few reasons why:
First & most important, that last chart (and the bare numbers) look far scarier because we are testing much, much more than before. A better measure of prevalence is % of tests coming back positive. It’s creeping up but is still way, way below where it was earlier in the summer
Second, something else seems to have changed since earlier this year. Cases are rising but deaths are not rising as fast, at least in European countries which had previous outbreaks. Look at the relationship between the black and red lines in France, the Netherlands. Spain etc.
Read 8 tweets
12 Aug
It’s official.
Not only is the UK now formally in recession.
It’s the deepest recession in UK history.
The deepest of any G7 economy.
The deepest since the invention of Gross Domestic Product.
GDP shrank by 20.4% in Q2, acc to @ONS. Follows a 2.2% fall in Q1
Here it is in chart form.
The UK's 20.4% contraction in GDP (that bar on the far right hand side) compared with every other quarterly GDP growth number back to 1920.
We've never seen anything like this.
One bit of good news: this recession will prob be the shortest in 45 years.
Most recent recessions lasted longer than two quarters but in this case GDP is expected to bounce back with v strong growth in Q3 (eg NOW).
That would make it the first two-quarter recession since 1975
Read 6 tweets

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