EXCLUSIVE: Government blocks release of coronavirus modelling

By Dan Peters | 27 April 2020

The Cabinet Office is understood to be blocking the release of key data on expected coronavirus infections and deaths, leaving councils in the dark.

Public Health England is believed to have modelled the number of deaths that could be expected under a number of scenarios, but there is not currently a working validated model that has been shared for use among local authorities.

Councils have received various estimates on the number of deaths to expect from different government departments, leaving them unclear about which data they should be using to make their plans.

They have pleaded for localised numbers and repeatedly been promised more reliable figures based on the latest modelling, which has failed to materialise.

A Local Government Association document, seen by The MJ, read: ‘Councils and LRFs [local resilience forums] need this information immediately.’

One source said they had been told the Cabinet Office was unhappy about releasing the modelling.

A council chief executive said: ‘It’s still not received and apparently the centre of government is preventing its release.

‘It’s a national scandal.

'We need something other than the worst-case scenario model against which to plan hospital services, body storage, burial and cremation capacity etc.

‘At the moment all we’ve got is the reasonable worst-case scenario and it’s really not fit-for-purpose in terms of planning.’

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has privately acknowledged the frustration around the failure to release revised planning assumptions.

A government spokesman said: ‘We are working closely with local communities to undertake contingency planning so we can ensure the public are kept safe, and any tragic loss of life is handled with the utmost respect and care. 

‘As we learn more about the outbreak and potential future measures that may be needed we will set out those plans to LRFs.’

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Whitehall Local Government Association MHCLG Chief executives Public health Data Coronavirus
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