About the Data

Covid Messenger distributes coronavirus data published by the government in England. We hope to be able to offer the same services for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland soon.

Each of these governments have their own individual processes for gathering testing data from their health authorities and laboratories and publishing it for their respective regions.

Further details on the data are provided by the 4 nations governments’ websites here: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.

The prompt availability of testing data is paramount to identifying hotspots quickly and halting the spread of the virus.

However, this has put unprecedented pressure on health authorities and governments to collate and publish data at great speed and without the full range of data quality checks that would typically be required for official statistics.

There is a trade-off between accuracy of data and speed of availability. If the data had to be “perfect” before it was published and leveraged, outbreaks could not be acted upon and contained promptly.

In addition, the process of laboratory testing and reporting takes time. The time it takes from the date the test sample is taken to the positive result being published in national statistics varies but for the majority of results, it takes approximately 5-6 days.

We lag the publication of the test data by 6 days to give the bulk of test results time to be returned and reflected in the data.

However, even this lag does not capture all positive results – some council areas have some positive cases that have not yet been reflected in the data after 6 days – most probably owing to the postal testing system which has a longer testing turnaround time.

So, this serves as a reminder that errors will occur. While the governments do revise the data when errors come to light, the data is rarely 100% accurate. We retrospectively review cases reported every day. Currently, on average, 90-95% of test results have been reported within 5 days of the test sample being taken.

When there are delays to test results feeding into the data, it has the effect of under-reporting the number of cases in your area. This isn’t particularly problematic for areas which are already reporting high case numbers – whether you have 45 or 50 cases per day in your area isn’t of major consequence as it’s clear the number of cases is high.

However, it has a greater impact in areas that are reporting 0 cases as the difference between some cases and no cases is significant. In this scenario one might be lulled into a false sense of security and believe that the virus is not present in one’s area.

So, to be clear: The evidence from various analyses suggests that coronavirus is present in every area. Regular or repeated ”0 new cases” should not be interpreted as the virus not being present in your area. This is especially true given that we now know that a large proportion of cases are asymptomatic.

The evidence from various analyses suggests that coronavirus is present in every area. Regular or repeated ”0 new cases” should not be interpreted as the virus not being present in your area.

Smartphone showing the Covid Messenger update for Hackney.

Which Counties in England Do You Offer This Service For?

The daily email service is available for every district councils in every county of England:

Bedfordshire, Berkshire , Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, County Durham, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, East Riding of Yorkshire, East Sussex, Essex, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Isle of Wight, Isles of Scilly, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, London, Merseyside, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Tyne and Wear, Warwickshire, West Midlands, West Sussex, West Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire.

You can sign up for up as many council area email alerts as you wish.