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Good with numbers

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There are lots of numbers attached to the virus, and nearly all of them are confusing or open to interpretation.

Did Matt Hancock hit his target of 100,000 tests a day, or not?

If he was there or there abouts, does it really matter?

One of the roles of the financial press is to a) debunk official figures, b) put them in context.

I don’t think the FT had its finest hour yesterday when it reported that the cost of vaccinating us all against Covid-19 could be more than $20 billion.

It had that figure in the headline as an indication that it thinks $20 billion is a lot. How will we ever raise that money, was the gist of the story.

As some on Twitter pointed out since there are 8 billion people in the world, that’s less than 50 cents each.

Which means you and I could easily pay for everyone we know. And everyone we know could pay for everyone they know. Jeff Bezos could pay for it all himself and still have a fortune of $110 billion.

So on the FT’s own figures, saving the planet will be incredibly cheap, once we have a vaccine that is.

The 100s of press releases that flop into inboxes each day are full of numbers, many of which lack explanation.

In some contexts $20 billion is a huge amount of money. And sometimes, it really isn’t.


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