Lately, Jersey has been leading the world in the doubling of active covid-19 cases (every nine days, according to government’s published data).
The need for additional resources for the contact tracing team has been detrimental to other government services. Many Islanders are self-isolating instead of working or Christmas shopping.
The ‘hospitality circuit breaker’ has further deprived Islanders of seasonal cheer and venues of much-needed takings.
This, after various expensive measures to ‘boost’ the economy, that aimed to keep local hospitality and retail businesses afloat.
Pictured: "Many Islanders are self-isolating instead of working or Christmas shopping."
If Jersey’s government had planned to manage the pandemic this way, it would be scandalous. We can presume it didn’t. So, what went wrong?
In May, the States Assembly supported the strategic objective of ensuring ‘the continued control and suppression of the virus in a safe and sustainable way that protects islanders by causing the least overall harm’.
This included harm to Islanders’ mental health. We still do not know how harm is being identified, measured and quantified.
Some politicians have seen health and economic issues as competing interests in the pandemic. In fact, they are inter-related. We know government has used a model to manage the pandemic, but its details have never been disclosed. It’s not only the elephant in the room, but a room in which the lights are switched off.
There are a few questions we might ask about the model. For example, what estimate has it given to the number, and cost to the hospitality industry, of Islanders responding to government’s efforts to ‘boost’ the economy by avoiding local dining establishments altogether? How would that estimate have been quantified?
Pictured: "Along with clean and relevant data, predictive modelling is an essential mathematical tool to economic management, particularly during a time of active pandemic management."
Not so long ago, we had a glimmer of one of the model’s assumptions. Islanders were presumed to understand they should be avoiding close socialisation with other households indoors, other than in hospitality venues. Thus, the hospitality industry could be supported, while children could be allowed to attend school.
Along with clean and relevant data, predictive modelling is an essential mathematical tool to economic management, particularly during a time of active pandemic management.
It is experimental. Creators and users of models need high-level mathematical and statistical competencies and a willingness to review content and calculations constantly and quickly. The sooner inappropriate assumptions are identified and ditched, or adjusted, the better.
Some jurisdictions excel at data analytics: others haven’t yet.
Pictured: "Government’s ‘behind closed doors’ culture has caused stress, confusion and misunderstanding to many Islanders."
The best data scientists have a deep curiosity. They work collaboratively, openly and objectively. They welcome peer review and scrutiny.
Government’s ‘behind closed doors’ culture has caused stress, confusion and misunderstanding to many Islanders, including some more accomplished in data science than the Island’s own civil servants. These specialists could be willing to review government’s modelling, in a united quest ‘to get things right’, knowing they are government’s ‘guinea pigs’ too.
One lesson to be learned from the government’s management of the pandemic to date, is that government should be throwing some doors open. And letting some light into the room.
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