A dearth of Scottish polls leads to desperation.

On social media, people often share survey research of vote intentions. On occasion, you may read estimates from Scotland that are not as they appear.

For example, the ‘UK Briefing’ account posted:

(Scotland) Westminster Voting Intention:
SNP: 37% (-11)
LAB: 25% (+5)
CON: 22% (+1)
LDEM: 10% (+6)
GREEN: 2% (-3)
Via [Redfield & Wilton Strategies], 22 Feb
Changes w/ 15 Feb.

Over 500 users shared this post, which shows a large change in intentions.

This is only a sub-sample. The Redfield & Wilton Strategies poll was of 2,000 GB adults on 22nd February. The survey was of online responses…

The UK has over one-fifth of its population already vaccinated.

Jason Hunter, a campaigner, claimed:

You’d never believe this world beating UK vaccine programme if it were not for UK news and media telling you it was ‘world beating’ and that ‘Boris Johnson is doing a great job’ with vaccines…. because the data says that is just NOT true.

The graph shows the cumulative share of people ‘fully vaccinated’. That means people receiving both doses of two-dose vaccines. Similar claims spread on social media.

Image for post
Image for post
The graph includes the UK and its nations as separate lines. (Image: Facebook/Jason J Hunter)

This claim does not reflect different dosing strategies.

Vaccines induce immune responses, giving our bodies a training exercise. Over time, protection wanes. …


Using the interface to draw statistics on the UK labour market.

What proportion of adults aged 16 to 64 are in employment? The Office for National Statistics conducts a labour force survey.

Statisticians use results from this survey to estimate this share. This survey also estimates unemployment and other key measures.

Image for post
Image for post
This article uses the report for the three months to November 2020. (Image: ONS)

People can see these figures in monthly reports and spreadsheets. The ONS has launched a trial interface for accessing national statistics. Instead of shifting spreadsheets, analysts can draw figures straight from the interface.

Checking the metadata and making the request

The Customise My Data service has two parts: filtering and the new interface.

To use the interface in R, we download the necessary packages:

library(httr) library(jsonlite) library(tidyverse)…

The method changes, but the overall estimate is similar.

Aeons ago in 2013, zero-hours contracts were a political focal point. Zero-hours contracts are employment which offers no set hours of work.

The question arises: how many people are on this kind of contract? The Office for National Statistics asks a flexible working question in labour surveys:

Some people have special working hours arrangements that vary daily or weekly. In your (main) job is your agreed working arrangement any of the following…

Respondents can say they are on a “zero hours contract” or eight other options. There are two different measures of people on zero hours contracts. …

This is higher than every year in England and Wales since 1918.

An erroneous image on social media claims there were 561,529 death registrations in 2020. This image uses the Office for National Statistics logo.

Citing this image: Piers Corbyn, a London mayoral candidate, asserted:


This number for 2020 is false: there were 608,002 death registrations in England and Wales.

A false image

The table, spread on social media, shows:

Image for post
Image for post
(Image: Twitter/Piers Corbyn)

There are three years where the stated figure is incorrect:

  • 1998: the number of death registrations in England and Wales was 553,435.That is about 12,000 higher than what the Twitter table shows.
  • 2010: there is a typographical error here: it should be…

The ONS survey and the ZOE app use different methods.

How many people have a SARS-CoV-2 infection? During this pandemic, there is a vital interest in tracking infections over time.

This article looks at differences between infection surveys and the ZOE symptom study.

Tracking the pandemic

In the news, we often hear the daily number of new cases.

A case is a new person with a positive test result. That result can be via a laboratory or a lateral flow device.

Confirmed cases are not all cases. Testing regimes and accuracy influences these statistics. If testing availability changes, then recorded case numbers can increase or decrease. …

How do COVID-19 admissions evolve over time?

‘Protect the NHS’ is the appeal from the UK government, ordering people to stay at home. Pressure on healthcare services is important to understand during a pandemic.

Image for post
Image for post
This is part of the government campaign. (Image: Public Health England)

How do COVID-19 admissions and patient levels change over time?

Evolving over time

We can plot COVID-19 admissions and COVID-19 patients in hospitals in England. NHS England use the following definitions:

  • COVID-19 admission: admissions with positive tests plus in-patient diagnoses. For hospital admissions, the person must have a positive SARS-CoV-2 test in the prior 14 days. NHS England counts in-patient diagnoses against the day before their diagnosis.
  • COVID-19 patients (or hospital cases): the number of confirmed…

What is the prevalence of this post-COVID syndrome?

Prof Anthony Costello (UCL) gave evidence to an all-parliamentary group of MPs. The social media account for this all-parliamentary group summarised his contribution:

The worry is this — we do not really understand Long Covid and what it means. We don’t know how long this lasts in people’s bodies. There is a lot to be concerned about.

There are 19 million children in the UK. If we just let them remain un-vaccinated, half of them become infected. That is 9.5 million[.] If 15% or 13% get prolonged symptoms, that could mean 1.3–1.5 million children.

This article looks at estimations of…

As the UK exceeds 100,000 deaths, how do we count these deaths?

On Tuesday 26th January, the UK daily COVID-19 death toll reached 100,000.

This article looks at the different ways of counting COVID-19 deaths.

Public Health England and the daily count

Broadcasts and article will often report how many more COVID-19 there are.

This is not the number of people who died with COVID-19 on that day. There are delays between a person dying and their death entering record systems. The figure for the United Kingdom comprises:

  • England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland: deaths from any cause within 28 days of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result.
  • Wales: deaths of Welsh hospital patients and care home residents, with a positive…

What figures are in the daily and weekly vaccination reports?

With a mass vaccination programme underway, public health agencies publish key statistics.

This article looks at the available statistics and a furore over definitions.

Vaccines and daily figures

In the United Kingdom, there are three approved COVID-19 vaccines.

The UK vaccination programme began on 8th December. On that date, people started getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. After 4th January, healthcare workers delivered the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK. Both vaccines have a two-dose schedule, at least 21 days apart.

The Medicine & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has also approved the Moderna vaccine.

Image for post
Image for post
(Image: BBC)

The Public Health England COVID-19 dashboard publishes:

  • Daily counts of first and…

Anthony B. Masters

This blog looks at the use of statistics in Britain and beyond. It is written by RSS Statistical Ambassador and Chartered Statistician @anthonybmasters.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store