R number estimation process should be transparent and improved

Given that the R figure is central to the Scottish Government determining whether to relax or to re-impose lockdown measures then the process by which this estimated figure is arrived at should be made transparent. The difference between an R of 0.6 and 0.8 is a hugely significant difference and yet the current estimating process does not seem to be able to narrow the range.
The Government should also lay out what steps it is taking to improve the current estimation process. Until the estimate becomes less variable then our future lives are going to be governed by a somewhat arbitrary figure.

Why the contribution is important

A reliable and more accurate R will give the Government and the public more confidence in the decisions made on lockdown.

by WRHearst on May 06, 2020 at 11:14AM

Current Rating

Average rating: 4.4
Based on: 16 votes


  • Posted by borisj May 06, 2020 at 11:50

    The R number is a false flag, it is derived and inacurate because we don't know how many people are carrying the disease, and how many people are being infected but not asking for diagnosis.

    The number of daily new infections is used to derive the R number, and if we make one assumption (this is why all the counting methods are inaccurate, too may assumptions built in) that the same percentage of infected people will ask for diagnosis, then we can say that when the number of daily new cases is on a steep downward trajectory, we are on the road to controlling the virus.

    Contrary to other people I think a real lockdown (not this wishy washy state) can stamp out the virus, it has worked in china, australia, new zealand, and is on the road to working in spain and italy. Given the choice between surviving covid-19 (currently 19% of severe cases don't) and not getting Covid-19 I would prefer the latter, to the point of quitting my job if I have to go back when I (not some statistician) thinks it is safe.
  • Posted by DevVeh May 06, 2020 at 12:00

    Without more testing there is a level of uncertainty which is why we are seeing a range of possible R numbers. Without testing the entire population every few days the R number will always fall within a range. The higher the testing the more specific they can be with that value, but at current levels I think it is more likely going to fall between 0.5 and 1 (which is roughly what was said yesterday)

    I think there should be more transparency of the modelling to get to these values as peer review is an important part of the scientific process.
  • Posted by fja1980 May 07, 2020 at 14:39

    The statement that they 'think' the R number is between 0.7 and 1 is not very specific. We know the rate of infection is very much higher but not confirmed and we know the % mild cases far exceed the confirmed number of positive cases. Only more testing will enable a clearer picture on the true numbers of mild Vs critical cases.
  • Posted by Annieo53 May 08, 2020 at 21:38

    I agree that testing to understand scale is absolutely essential to having a more accurate R number.
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