matt hancock - statistical anomolies

If there is one thing the Coronavirus pandemic has taught me its that statistics are important, but not all statistics are created equally.

Today, the UK government used its media channels to pat their COVID-19 testing program on the back, announcing that ‘1-in-10’ people in England have been tested for Coronavirus. I thought it would be fun to analyse the testing stats, confirm the 1-in-10 claim and see exactly how many people have been tested for COVID-19.

What are governments testing statistics?

As of the writing of this article (24th September), the UK governments Coronavirus dashboard is reporting that a total of 19,325,203 tests have been ‘processed’.

It is important to note that this ‘Test processed’ stat refers to individual swabs or samples that have been tested, not the actual amount of people tested; just the tests. This method of counting has been widely slated as dishonest as nowhere is this alluded to within the reports, so if you don’t know it’s not referring to people tested you never would. (You know now! Hold on to this fact).

To find out the actual amounts of people, we have to go to the various testing programs and public health bodies that represent England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


The English Coronavirus testing is managed by the Governments 'Test and Trace' program. Since Test and Trace began the program has tested 6,475,762 people.


Scotland's COVID-19 testing is managed by the Scots governments 'Test and Protect' program. Since the creation of Test and Protect, Scotland has tested 744,653 people.


Wales's Coronavirus testing program is managed by the Welsh Government. Since it launched the Welsh government has tested 484,198 people.

Northern Ireland

Last, and in terms of tests least we have Northern Ireland. Their testing is managed by N.I's Department of Health who report testing 326831 people

So, how many people HAVE been tested?

across the UK’s 4 nations, since the 28th of May to the 24th September, the UK has tested 8,031,444 individual people for COVID-19, miles from the 19.35 Million number the UK government proudly announced via their Coronavirus dashboard.

You may be wondering why the stats for these programs did not start until the 28th of May, and you are not alone. The reasons for this are connected to the overall lack of nationwide testing, which did not start until the end of May; so there is likely another million or so which could be added to our 8.03 Million total.

Thankfully, the data does exist for the period of time before the 28th of May.

From the beginning of the pandemic to the 28th of May the Department of Health reported that 3,918,079 tests had been carried out; however, much like the 19 million statistic government flies high, it refers to processes and not people tested.

In short, we know that millions of saliva and bogey soaked swabs have been tested but not how many people those bodily fluids came from.

I dont ask for much these days. I am so browbeaten by the pandemic and the overall grind of writing life that most of the bad news flows off me like water from a ducks back, But this all relies on me being able to trust the bad news I hear. If we cant trust the bad news, how can we be expected to believe the good news?

For the record, Governments 1-in-10 people tested statistic IS roughly accurate, it’s just a shame it took so much effort to verify!

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