Mailbox: ‘Shame on you, for shaming Professor Boulle’ – Covid-19 PANDA data controversy

The business community has been fascinated by the analysis of Covid-19 data and, in particular, the harm overly pessimistic forecasts can cause as they play into economic decision-making. Nick Hudson, of thinktank PANDA, has ripped Western Cape Covid-19 data analysis to shreds. The group says modelling by provincial health officials is catastrophically wrong. The PANDA analysis has the same message as another assessment of Covid-19 data from retired actuary Dave de Klerk, who also believes South Africa has over-estimated the number of deaths likely from the Covid-19 virus. BizNews visitor Robyn van der Berg takes all those involved in the PANDA article, PANDA rips Covid-19 data to shreds; projections ‘catastrophically wrong, to task, arguing that the tone and treatment are too aggressive. BizNews welcomes comments and constructive feedback. – Editor

By Robyn van der Berg

I read your article entitled ‘PANDA rips Cape Covid-19 data to shreds; projections ‘catastrophically wrong’ recently and wanted to share a thought or two.

I have followed the PANDA response for a while and find their analyses and conclusions to be enlightening and insightful. I too hope that they are being taken seriously by policy makers both now and going forward.

At the same time (and my first thought) I do recognise that there are problems with overtly focussing on years of life lost due to poverty and comparing that number to deaths in extremely overcrowded hospitals. They are not comparable in terms of trauma to families and a simple numbers game neglects to address the complex social and political angles of policy making and a public health response in a time like this.

My main issue (and second thought) with the piece is that it is almost singularly focussed on Professor Boulle and your aggressive treatment of him was to me unnecessary and one dimensional in the task of highlighting “actors that are so invested in their authority…[with] flawed thinking”. You sarcastically refer to him as the ‘wise professor’ and how you hope those in attendance could ‘grasp his brilliance’. The article continues with quite a ‘shaming’ tone, focussed almost exclusively on him – I could cite many more examples.

I felt like there were other angles to the story worth exploring and despite agreeing with Panda and the facts presented in the article, felt resistant to liking and sharing it. It might have been easier for me to digest this as an ‘opinion piece’ or if the headline alluded to the focus on one person as the face of the Western Cape government. You end the article with ‘Shame on them’ but I feel there was a disproportionate focus on shaming one person.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for hearing my feedback. I continue to be a supporter and consumer of BizNews and appreciate it as one of the few good sources of news and insight – thank you for your role in that.

Kind regards


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