Tim Harford Columnist

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.

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