Boris Johnson Accused Of Hiding Data Showing UK Has Most Coronavirus Deaths In Europe

Keir Starmer says PM stopped publishing charts this week because they told an 'unenviable' story.

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Boris Johnson has been accused of trying to hide the fact the UK appears to have the highest death toll from coronavirus in Europe.

Speaking during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Keir Starmer said it was “pretty obvious” the government had stopped publishing daily international comparison charts to avoid drawing attention to the “unenviable” position.

But the prime minister said it was still too early to make comparisons between countries in terms of Covid-19-related deaths.

“As for the international comparisons that he seeks to draw now, he will have to contain his impatience,” Johnson said of the Labour leader.

Every day for seven weeks at the Downing Street press conference, a chart has been shown displaying the number of deaths related to coronavirus in different countries.

But yesterday’s briefing, led by business secretary Alok Sharma, did not include one.

International death comparison charts like this have been shown every day at the Downing Street press conference.
International death comparison charts like this have been shown every day at the Downing Street press conference.

Starmer said he was “baffled” by Johnson’s dismissal of the need for international comparisons.

“It’s not me seeking to draw the comparisons,” he said. “These are the government slides that have been used for seven weeks to reassure the public.

“It’s pretty obvious for seven weeks when we weren’t the highest number in Europe they were used for comparison purposes. As soon as we hit that unenviable place, they’ve been dropped.”

As of Tuesday, figures showed that 32,692 people in the UK have lost their lives after testing positive for the disease, after deaths in hospitals, care homes and the community were included.

For Italy, Spain, France and Germany, the national figures stood at 30,911, 26,920, 26,643 and 7,667 respectively. America, meanwhile, had recorded a total of 81,779 deaths.

Johnson said today the “correct and final way” of making comparisons would have to wait until the “excess death totals for all the relevant countries” was available.

“We do not yet have that data. I’m not going to try to pretend to the House that the figures when they are finally confirmed are anything other than stark and deeply, deeply horrifying. This has been an appalling epidemic,” he added.

A government spokesperson told HuffPost UK last night the graph had been dropped because No.10 wanted to vary the “content and format” of data and that it was “difficult to compare statistics across countries”.

Statistician and Cambridge University professor David Spiegelhalter has said while it is “completely fatuous” to compare the figures for countries in Europe that have a similar number of deaths so far – such as the UK and Italy – it was useful to examine the difference between the UK and European countries with a much lower rate such as Germany or Portugal.

“What’s happened in this country is not inevitable,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. “When you see really massive differences between countries then it is really worth trying to investigate why.”


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