Study underestimated the amount of people infected by virus
As the new coronavirus spread across the world, Britain took a measured approach to the situation by assessing the data available and wasn’t pressured into actions for fear of going against the orthodoxy. But suddenly everything changed. In March 2020 an unpublished study from Imperial College London led by Neil Ferguson, predicted that over 500,000 people ‘will’ die from coronavirus in the UK, if enforced lockdown was not imposed.
However, there was a significant amount of small print accompanying this figure that was left out of the headlines. In the scenario that all 66.6 million people in the UK were infected, 500,000 deaths would give a death rate of 0.8%; a number far higher than the current estimates of nearer 0.1%. It also didn’t explain whether these deaths would be on top of the yearly average of 541,000, equalling a total of over one million, or some would have happened anyway. As I explained in a previous post, the latter is not a callous, uncaring statement, but a reluctant acceptance of the sad reality that needs to be understood to look past the headlines.
The team at Imperial College also assumed that the virus had only just reached the UK when their study was released in March. As I explained previously, there is substantial evidence that it reached Europe in October 2019 and therefore far more people already had the virus than the Imperial model assumed.
Another key assumption was that the death rate was as high as 1, 2, or 3 percent. They used data from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where an outbreak of the virus spread rapidly through the inhabitants. This death rate was skewed by the overwhelming majority of people on board the ship being towards the older end of the age spectrum, where 78% were aged over 60. The death rate was also modelled on early Chinese estimates, which were also highly innaccurate because the true extent of how widely the virus had spread had not been tracked.
The government panicked and based their policy not on ‘the science’ but ‘a science’ taken from one source, which provided a totally inadequate estimation of the people infected by the virus. Truly following ‘the science’ requires a review of all the sources available. Neil Ferguson and his team have history too; their predictions of previous virus outbreaks have totally over-estimated the severity and danger posed. A parellel can be drawn with the so called economic ‘experts’ whose predictions are always wrong yet we still listen to them. So this is why in any area a review of all the sources available is the first best step in deciding an action plan, not a focus on a single high profile name.
What do you think? Read the next installment in the Covid-19 Review here!