Pakistan Institute of Development Economics

The Fog of War
P & R Vol.1 Issue 1
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The Fog of War (P & R Vol.1 Issue 1)

Publication Year : 2020
Author: Nadeem Khan

Many of us have heard of the “fog of war”, a term coined by the 19th-century Prussian military writer Carl von Clausewitz. It refers to the idea that war is often conducted in a haze of uncertainty. Militaries do not fully understand either their enemy’s threat or their capacity to combat it. COVID-19 tracking is like swimming in statistics: infection cases, death rate, various percentages and economic data. But in these early stages of the fight against the Coronavirus, these data have their own limitations. We are already seeing how, in the fog of confusing data estimates, political leaders are trying to marshal the uncertainty of what public health experts recommend. Data experts have a warning: nations have different reporting standards and testing of Coronavirus. They have even different viewpoints about tracing cases. These different standards make statistics comparatively misleading. Sheila Bird, a renowned British biostatistician and professor at Cambridge University, says “testing and reporting have been inconsistent even within individual countries”. Bird is one of the several high-level scientists calling on the UK government to conduct more Coronavirus tests and provide more revealing data. The UK government says that the health system currently cannot test everyone. According to the government, only patients who need treatment at the hospital are tested. This can lead to higher estimates as testing is conducted only on those patients who have serious conditions for hospitalization, and hence have a relatively high mortality rate.