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How has a bear helped Russians socially distance? Ian Diamond explains!

National Statistician Ian Diamond has made his second appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show is as many months.

Sir Ian was interviewed by Nick Robinson on the latest results from GSS surveys, covering topics including whether the number of new infections were levelling off and disparity on the impact of those in ethnic minority groups.

Ian also discussed claims that people were becoming sceptical of the official figures being presented at the Downing Street briefing, referencing the letter UK Statistics Authority Chair, Sir David Norgrove wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock over concerns on testing figures. Ian said that data was being used in ways that it had never been used before and the we were working the Department for Health and Social Care to help them improve their testing data.

Ian also gave a shout out to the hard work GSS colleagues are doing to deliver the vital data the nation needs to help it understand the impact that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having.

At the end of the interview, Ian was also asked about his time on SAGE, the government’s scientific advisory group. He explained the decision-making process in the context of the upcoming decision over the two metre social distancing rule. Ian explained that different nations had taken different approaches to communicate messages to citizens, citing an example from Russia where they used an image of two people separated by a medium-sized bear.

You can watch the full interview on the BBC iPlayer (interview starts at 17:34 minutes in).

Meanwhile, The Times ran an informative and highly positive background article on the Office for National Statistics’ response to the pandemic based on a separate interview with Sir Ian last week.

Under the headline “Covid-19 has turned the spotlight on the Office for National Statistics”, it says “The impact that data can have has rarely been demonstrated better than the Covid-19 deaths report that the office published in mid-April. It revealed the scale of the crisis engulfing care homes and shifted the national conversation.”

It goes on to discuss how we launched new surveys and drew on new data sources to provide useful, timely data. It quotes Sir Ian saying “It is fair to say that during this crisis the need to provide government with rapid robust data has meant that we have pushed forward at speed on things which would have taken longer. One of the things I want to do is enable more rapid information now. It’s not much use to say we’ll let you know what’s going on now in six months’ time”.