As Charlie spotted...
If there's one thing ITV's political editor Robert Peston is known for - other than his unique manner of delivery and his legendary activities as a Punch & Judy man - it's for his famously loose lips.
Last time those lips of his caused the collapse of Northern Rock and the entire world financial system. (Allegedly).
And he's distinguished himself over the past near-year of Covid-related Downing Street press conferences by asking the most ill-judged questions at the greatest length. (No 'allegedly' needed).
Robert Peston, ITV: The government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (or Nervtag) has concluded that the new Covid-19 strain may be a bit more lethal than the existing strain. I've spoken to the influential Nervtag member, Prof Neil Ferguson about this. He has given me this statement: "It is a realistic possibility that the new UK variant increases the risk of death, but there is considerable remaining uncertainty". Four groups - Imperial, LSHTM, PHE and Exeter - have looked at the relationship between people testing positive for the variant vs old strains and the risk of death. That suggests a 1.3-fold increased risk of death. So for 60 year-olds, 13 in 1000 might die compared with 10 in 1000 for old strains. The big caveat is that we only know which strain people were infected with for about 8% of deaths. Only about 25% of people who eventually die from COVID get a pillar 2 test before they are hospitalised (at which point they get a pillar 1 test, but pillar 1 tests don’t tell us which strain they were infected with). And we can only distinguish the new variant from the old variant for about 1/3 of pillar 2 tests. All that said, the signal is there and is consistent across different age groups, regions and ethnicities." The worrying news is that although treatments for Covid-19 have improved, the new strain does seem to be more lethal. I understand Sir Patrick Vallance will address this issue at the press conference with Boris Johnson later today. The original work on the lethality of the new strain was done by Nick Davies of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and has been checked and rechecked by assorted other experts (including, obviously, Prof Ferguson).
Robert Peston's tweets are like his TV contributions. They flow on, without regard to form, like the poorest early 20th Century modernist poetry, from tweet to tweet...
...unlike Deb Cohen's. She's straight to the point, reacting to Robert's outpourings:
Deborah Cohen, BBC Newsnight: I don't often do this...but this is irresponsible. We should be able to see the evidence and the analyses so we fully understand any potential limitations or confounders. Science by briefing has become an unfortunate part of this pandemic and it's not helpful. It's really not good for public trust and probably not good for science in the long run. So many preliminary studies based on limited analyses or tiny samples are being reported with scant attention paid to limitations. It's driving me insane!
Deb Cohen has struck me for a while as being the exception that proves the rule at Newsnight (along with Mark Urban).
Robert hasn't replied. (Very him.)
He does love parroting things as 'scoops' though.