Coronavirus – Day #198

There have been exciting times in the data-crunching here in the UK. On Saturday the number of new COVID-19 cases leapt to over 12,000, and yesterday it was somewhere in the region of 23,000. Today is back to 12.5k, and we have learned that the massive Sunday count was a correction because Public Health England (PHE) lost a lot of data. Those numbers should actualy be spread across the previous week.

We also learned how the data came to be lost. PHE is still working on very old versions on Microsoft Office, in particular they only have the version of Excel that is capped at 65,000 rows. As some of the data that was coming in exceeded that number of rows, it was just getting lost. So old software, and crappy macros with no error trapping.

Some people on Twitter are astonished that a huge organisation like the NHS should be using Excel for data crunching, but this is symptomatic of how badly the service has been starved of cash by successive Tory governments. I visit NHS sites quite a lot to do training. Last time I used one of their computers, as opposed to bringing my laptop, they were still running Windows XP.

Meanwhile there has been excitment in Parliament. The House of Commons has its own Twitter feed, which has been used to tweet the results of votes as they happen. However, people have become increasingly incensed at the things the government has been up to. As a result the government has banned the tweeting of vote results on the grounds that it is bad for their reputation and therefore politically partial. I wonder how long it will be before we are not allowed to know what bills have been passed.

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