Covid numberwang

Have we reached the point where there is any credibility left in academia or the news industry when they present numbers to us?

Here’s an example. London bus drivers three times more likely to die from Covid.

Well, that’s bad, obviously.

I came across this article because I’d been waiting for data to appear to help answer a question that’s been nagging my brain for some time. That is, what’s the relative rates of infection, hospitalisation and death for the workers who’ve been unable to work from home for the last year. I’m thinking of bus drivers and supermarket cashiers, specifically.

Read the article for yourself, but data points offered include:

  • 51 bus drivers have died of covid.
  • This equates to “three times” the rate of other workers (but the actual rate isn’t offered, nor is the denominator).
  • “….an earlier introduction of the lockdown on 23 March 2020 would have saved lives“.
  • The report confirms driving a London bus is one of the most dangerous jobs during the pandemic.”

If we accept the UK population is about 67 million, give or take a couple of million illegal immigrants, and the offical total of covid deaths is about 126,000, then the population fatality rate is just under 0.2%.

Despite the BBC article not bothering you with this detail, a search would suggest there were approximately 24,500 bus drivers in London in 2014. So, 51/24,500 x 100 = a death rate of 0.2%.

Obviously the UK-wide calculation is using the overall population, including retirees who would skew the ratio up, but also children who would skew the ratio down. But, as a sniff test, it suggests there’s not something wildly different going on with bus drivers, despite what the report claims.

The assertion that driving a bus is one of the most dangerous professions seems to be doing a little heavy lifting and one many cycle couriers and North Sea divers may want to take issue with.

The report’s conclusion seems suspiciously in line with precisely what Sadiq Khan paid them to write was expecting, i.e. evil and stupid Boris Johnson should have shut down the country earlier.

In other news, if nobody ever travelled by car again, there would be no more traffic fatalities and, in a specific example, if James Dean had taken a train instead of driving Little Bastard he might still be here today. Just because a statement is true doesn’t mean it’s helpful.

If you wish to bypass the useless reporting, the full 87 pages of the UCL report can be found here. Fair warning, it won’t improve your confidence in the existence of objective science, though.

The report attempts to parse diverse data sets on areas such as age, ethnicity, health, social status, housing, and methods of commute to work to produce a conclusion on why the death rate was so high (a prior assumption which we can challenge) and what could have been done or can still be done to ameliorate it.

Judge for yourself whether this was achieved and whether or not objective scientific analysis was used.

Bill’s Opinion

Personally, I’m none the wiser on two important questions:

Have front line workers been disproportionately infected or killed by the virus, and if so, why?

The report has convinced me of one fact, however; this is a multi-variable problem and seeking a single reason is pointless. 87 pages of pointlessness, in this case.

Some clues can be found within the report, if one looks hard enough though. Once you get past the headline conclusion of, “keeping everyone at home earlier would have stopped bus drivers from catching a virus and dying from it“, there is a tell tale admission in the second recommendation:

2) In the longer term, early interventions on ill-health prevention are needed to reduce obesity in the population as a whole, with responsible employers playing their part. In particular, measures are needed among younger London bus drivers who have higher rates than other young people of the same age.

Finally, he who pays the piper, calls the tune. This is a flawed and political study, primarily for the purpose of shifting blame on to the Mayor of London’s political opponent.

The clue is even in the organisation name, the Institute of Health Equity.

Equity. Whenever one sees that noun, it’s a clear signal you are dealing with disciples of Critical Theory and should treat the call for action with the same credibility as the Heaven’s Gate Cult.

A year on and we still can’t trust any number offered on the subject.

One Reply to “Covid numberwang”

  1. Its becoming increasingly obvious that the aim of public health people is to prove to the public that their intuitions are based on science and correct.

    I was agnostic on masks and to keep my wife happy I started wearing one in shops before they became mandatory. Intuitively they should work. But wait, even the deputy CMO said they don’t work for the general population and the ASA stopped them being advertised. That didn’t matter, the general public had decided they work and politicians weren’t going to buck the trend, so they were made compulsory.

    There’s now growing evidence, eg Bavaria where FFP2 face masks were made compulsory, the USA where states have different regulations etc, that they don’t make any difference. They may even be a part of the problem through risk compensation, but that’s a different story.

    Try raising these issues in what you might think are reasonable forums and the response is amazing. I raised it in a private sailing forum and got a glimpse of something dangerous, a cult, and got shot down not by facts but on the basis that they must work.. They don’t want to consider the evidence nor present any evidence in defence. Point out the authorities did a 180 without any evidence and its ignored. These are people who take part in a dangerous activity, many single handing, and are used to making life and death risk assessments and judgment on their own safety but they don’t want to consider they might be wrong on masks.

    Its similar with lockdowns. A year on and its fairly obvious that long term lockdowns don’t make a shit of difference, they may even be making the situation worse by locking people in confined areas.

    Its become a cult. Its intuitive that bus drivers, supermarket cashiers, teachers etc are at increased risk and point to data that says they aren’t and you get looked at as if you’ve got two heads, if you’re lucky. Of course there’s no end of “experts” willing to pander to the cult so they get their 15 minutes of fame.

    This would be amusing if it wasn’t so dangerous. Not dangerous in the physical sense but in the way we’re being governed. Point out that it isn’t our job to prove that we should be free of these restrictions, its the government’s job to make the case for them, and you get accused of wanting to kill granny. Point out that granny has been vaccinated and you get hit with the new catch-all, mutant variations. The precautionary principle is their crutch.

    There’s a large and vocal section of the community that appears to enjoy being locked down in the belief they are being kept safe and no amount of reason is going to change their mind. Unfortunately they have the ear of politicians.

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