Was the reported fall in COVID cases real? And why does this matter for churches and church leaders?

You may remember that I wrote this article last week following some suggestions that we could not rely on the COVID-19 data being shared from the official website. The argument was that whilst Lateral Flow and PCR tests results were showing a drop in the number of cases, that couldn’t possibly be true. This linked with a view that moving to the 19th July unlocking was reckless and ethically questionable. Explanations included that we were just seeing a fall in cases because less people were taking tests in the first place. Fascinatingly when cases were going up, those who wanted to believe that there wasn’t a problem frequently argued that this was only happening because we were testing more people. It’s funny how we cling to straws and how often we don’t want to hear news that contradicts our perceptions whether that news is good or bad.

Milder versions of the argument tended to focus on the drop off in cases. Stronger versions went further basically accusing those reporting the data of intentionally manipulating it in order to support the Government’s agenda.

In my article I argued that like with opinion polls we needed to wait for the equivalent of polling day and that in this context the real test would be the hospital admission and mortality data. Well, here’s the latest view on admissions

As you can see, the number of admissions daily, particularly when we look at a rolling seven day average is in fact looking like it is starting to peak. It’s still a little bit early to be sure but the data does fit with a slowdown and move to reduction in cases a couple of weeks earlier. We will need to keep following this through the week.

For interest, here’s the data on mortality. We expect this to lag even further behind admissions. However, we are beginning to see promising signs here too. The % increase in daily reported deaths has begun to drop.

I expect that this reflects the slowdown we were seeing prior to the Euros effect and so sadly we may still see a few spikes in deaths to come. Here’s a graph showing the average number of deaths reported each day.

If admissions begin to rise again exponentially then I will be happy to admit I was wrong and that the data was giving us false hope. However if admissions fall I hope those that were so confident in telling us that there was no hope in sight, that it was all doom and gloom and that those of us failing to see this were somehow blind, naive, duped will also have the decency to admit that they were wrong.

This matters first of all for those of us who are Christians because at times during COVID I’ve seen greater confidence from believers in pronouncing their rightness and others wrongness on things from the benefits of lockdown, the use of facemask and the reliability of data and scientific evidence than I see when it comes to talking about the Gospel. Surely it should be the other way round. We should speak confidently about the Gospel whilst admitting our fallibility on controversial subjects that we are not experts in.

Secondly, as you know, I’ve been trying to provide updates on the data and what it is showing to help churches planning. I will be giving a detailed update on this later in the week but I do think that the current trends should give us greater confidence when revisiting our risk assessments that further relaxation of mitigation measures in churches over the next few weeks should be possible.

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