NEWS18 December 2020

RSS names its statistics of the year

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UK – The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) has released its statistics of the year, including the length of time between the publication of Covid-19’s genetic sequence and the creation of its vaccine and the number of excess deaths in UK care homes. 


The winner of international statistic of the year was ‘332 days’, which covered the length of time between publishing the genetic sequence of Covid-19 on 11th January and an effective vaccine being administered on 8th December 2020.

The RSS judging panel said the statistic highlighted the “remarkable efforts by the global scientific community in developing effective protection against Covid-19” and noted the vaccine development programme was widely considered to be unparalleled in the history of disease outbreaks.

Professor Liberty Vittert, statistician and member of the judging panel, said: “‘When will there be a vaccine?’ has been a question on all our lips this year and while only very few have benefited from one so far, I think many of us did not expect such a breakthrough in 2020.

“After many months of distressing numbers in the news, the judging panel are pleased to showcase a positive figure for our international statistic of the year.”

UK statistic of the year was 17,750, which was the number of excess deaths in care homes in England and Wales between 4th April and 1st May. The figure was 200% higher than the five-year average.

The judging panel chose the figure to demonstrate the impact of Covid-19 on the country and people living in care homes.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, statistician and member of the judging panel, said: “It’s a sad fact that the public this year have had to get their heads round the different types of mortality statistics being published on a regular basis. This stark statistic gives an insight into the sheer devastation caused by coronavirus.”

There were two highly commended international statistics: ‘5.5m years’, which showed the cumulative time spent on Zoom worldwide in 2020; and ‘three out of five’, which referred to the proportion of the world’s population that have access to basic hand washing facilities.

The UK statistics that were highly commended included ‘19 times’, which referred to how black men aged 18 to 24 in London are 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police compared with the general population of the city.

The other highly commended UK statistic was 19%, which was the proportion of adults experiencing some form of depression during the pandemic.

Professor Jennifer Rogers, chair of the judging panel and vice-president for external affairs at the RSS, said: “Our winning statistics capture some of the challenges faced by all in a year which, it’s safe to say, has been like no other.

“During the pandemic, the public has been confronted daily with statistics which have had major repercussions on their day-to-day lives. The 2020 list highlights the role statistics play in a year where they have been more important than ever.”