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EXPERT COMMENT: Bolton lockdown data is out-of-date

The coronavirus data which the Government is using to lift lockdown restrictions in Bolton is not accurate, says Dr Duncan Robertson – an expert in dynamic modelling from Loughborough University.

At midnight last night, three local lockdowns in Greater Manchester – Stockport, Bolton and Trafford – were all ended, allowing residents to now meet in homes and private gardens.

Despite the official easing, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has still urged people to continue to follow restrictions on social gatherings.

Loughborough’s Dr Duncan Robertson has backed Mr Burnham’s pleas and says the lockdown has been lifted too soon.

He said: “The Government appears to be lifting lockdown restrictions in Bolton on the basis of out-of-date data.

“Public Health England, together with the Joint Biosecurity Centre and NHS Test and Trace, issue a weekly watchlist of local authorities and their ‘Contain Framework Watchlist status’. 

“This showed that the restrictions in Bolton should be reduced from ‘Intervention’ to ‘Enhanced Support’ on the basis that there were 18.9 cases per 100,000 Bolton residents.

“That made sense, with a decreasing trend and a relatively low incidence.

“The weekly watchlist is however out-of-date.

“The latest report published on August 29, only shows data for the previous week and is based on data between August 17 and August 23, and where available daily data up to August 25, 2020.

“However, the most recent data on the Government’s data website shows that the cases in Bolton are far higher, with the current weekly figures in excess of 60 cases per 100,000 (for comparison, the German Government uses 50 cases per 100,000 as their threshold for the ‘emergency brake’).

“The Government appears to be using out-of-data data for releasing local lockdown measures in Bolton.

“In the Bolton case, the Government needs to rely on the most timely, accurate data in order to make the best policy decisions.”

*Dr Robertson is available for interviews: D.A.Robertson@lboro.ac.uk

ENDS

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 20/150

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

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