Friday Briefing | Lies, damned lies and statistics: the problem with Covid-19 numbers

FB May 1

Current data giving us a false sense of reality

The experts continue to crunch the Covid-19 numbers and what some of them have to say does not make for pretty math and paints a way more sombre reality than any of us would want to or care to imagine.

These are rational minds, for whom the numbers are far more useful, insightful and vital than emotive posturing.

We are going to need all the rational and sober voices if we are to stay informed and stave off the hysteria and panic caused by mis-information, fake news and government double-speak.

Professor of demography at the University of Cape Town Tom Moultrie points out that most of us have a few favourite dashboards “that are looked at, contemplated, and read for signs with all the avidity of soothsayers reading entrails or tea leaves”.  

He cautions that these dashboards offer little prospect for meaningful insight into the current condition of the outbreak.

News24 investigative reporter Kyle Cowan points out that it is way too early for us to be patting ourselves on the back for thinking that we have flattened the dreaded curve. 

“Until a large percentage of the 56 million people living in the country are tested, it is almost impossible to say for certain how widespread the coronavirus is,” Cowan says.

Clear minds, clean hands as the saying goes.

Until we meet again, stay safe and chin up. 


Yunus Kemp

Opinions Editor

What can – and can’t – we learn from the official Covid-19 data?

That government and official agencies should be trying to present more useful and timely data is indisputable; however, doing so should not detract from their core missions, writes Tom Moultrie.

The big problem with South Africa’s official Covid-19 numbers

103 deaths. 5 350 cases. 197 000 tests. 6 million screened. One problem. Is the data reliable? asks Kyle Cowan.

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