Former WHO chief explains why international comparisons ARE useful

14 May 2020, 09:22

By Adrian Sherling

This former director of the World Health Organisation told Nick Ferrari that the UK can learn from comparisons of coronavirus data.

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer got into a row during Prime Minister's Questions about why the government dropped the graph showing the comparison of the spread of coronavirus across countries.

The Prime Minister insisted the international comparison is unhelpful, but the Labour leader pointed out the government had used the graph for the past seven weeks and only stopped using it when the UK's death toll became the worst in Europe.

Nick spoke to Professor Anthony Costello, a former director of the WHO, who explained what we can learn by looking at the data of other countries.

Boris Johnson insists the international comparisons are not helpful
Boris Johnson insists the international comparisons are not helpful. Picture: PA / HM Government

Responding to claims that you can't compare countries due to different population density and demographics, Professor Costello said: "That is fair if you are comparing, say, Italy and Ireland.

"But you gave the figures. If you convert 60,000 deaths, which I think is the real figure [from the FT analysis] into per million, you're at around 840 deaths per million.

"If you look at Korea, which has flattened its epidemic and recorded all deaths, it's at five deaths per million. That is an enormous difference.

"New Zealand is four per million, Australia is four per million. Japan is five per million. Lots of countries are dramatically different.

"You can explain a little bit on age and demographic factors, but not that much."

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