TIM HARFORD: Serological surveys are vital for determining end of lockdown
Consider the question we’re all desperate to have answered: when is the right time to lift the lockdowns? Without delay? In a week or two? Months from now?
Anyone prone to cynicism about “damned lies and statistics” should be prompted to think again by the pandemic. Admittedly, distorted or fictional statistics have been press-ganged into their familiar roles of spin and propaganda. But the real thing — statistical information, carefully gathered — can save lives.
The UK Office for National Statistics has announced a new survey of 25,000 people, designed to test a demographically representative cross-section of the UK population for infection and antibody response. Given that the UK already tests many tens of thousands of people a day for infection, that news might provoke a shrug. But it is an example of the data detective work we desperately need if we are to find our way through the crisis.