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Superforecasting the end of Covid A group of experts — with proven track records — offer predictions on when the nightmare will end

Our passport to freedom Photo: Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty

Our passport to freedom Photo: Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty


January 12, 2021   8 mins

Britain’s pundits and experts (many moonlight as both) haven’t covered themselves in glory with their predictions throughout the pandemic. We have heard assertions that the UK had already reached herd immunity so there’d be no cases left by Christmas; forecasts that the infection fatality rate would be as low as 1 in 10,000; expectations from MPs that the virus would just go away on its own due to the Gompertz curve; or that there would never be a Covid vaccine. All of these were completely wrong, and all helped sow confusion, delaying decisions and making the virus harder to tackle in the long run.

This cacophony of almost random forecasts isn’t unique to public commentary on viruses – almost any area of national debate is drowning in confident predictions, very few of which have much value. Most of those you read suffer from one of two problems: the forecaster probably isn’t telling you what they really think, and even if they were, what they think might not be any good.

Accuracy, even among professional forecasters like intelligence analysts, has often been a target rather than an achievement. So anyone trying to work out who to listen to in order to understand the future always had their work cut out for them.

That’s why in 2011 the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity agency, IARPA, invested in a massive forecasting competition to try and make concrete improvements. Teams would compete to forecast hundreds of topics over four years, from a range of subjects in different countries, with the winning strategies studied and shared with the wider intelligence world.

The bestselling book Superforecasting went on to describe the techniques used by the winning team (of which I was a member) in that competition. We didn’t get everything right, but we learned that it’s possible to do a lot better than foreign policy experts by moving away from the traditional methods employed.

There were three key structural lessons from the competition:

  1. Keep score
  2. Identify the best forecasters
  3. Work as a team

The most important item on this list is keep score. Most forecasts that we come across in the media are made by in-house pundits or people rung up by television stations or newspapers for a quote, and these aren’t scored – there’s no penalty for being wrong most of the time. Old articles are rarely revisited and if they are, the pundit can normally wave away criticism and continue along the same line. Some pundits have made a career out of political analysis despite consistently being wrong in their predictions.

If there’s no reward for getting things right, then accuracy will drop down the list of incentives behind the forecasts. Instead pundits will say what they think will cheer people up, what will promote their career via wacky, attention-grabbing predictions, what shows loyalty to their friends or signals political values and ideals to others — or any of the million other reasons someone might predict something without actually expecting it to happen.

It’s not just that pundits and others in the public eye are bad at predicting, they’re mostly not even trying to. And these predictions can influence politicians and decision makers.

The way to build a successful forecasting system is to reward people for accurate forecasts and disincentivise bad ones. Just that little step, of keeping score and letting everyone know at the start that what they say will matter, immediately changes everything. Now when someone is tempted to predict great success for a project led by their pal, they might think about how embarrassed they’ll be if it goes wrong, and drop their confidence.

Once people are actually trying to predict accurately, you can move on to step two — feedback. Scorekeeping doesn’t just incentivise people to be honest, it also gives them the opportunity to improve. Once you know what you’ve got right and got wrong, you can go back and review. As forecasts resolve, people tend to get better calibrated – that is, there develops a closer relationship between their confidence in their forecast and the outcome.

And once you have a regular run of forecasts, you can take one of the most important steps — stop listening to people who can’t or won’t predict accurately, and pay attention to the most accurate team members, the “superforecasters”.

One of our most striking findings was that the ability to forecast is a skill in itself, independent from subject matter knowledge. Successful forecasters aren’t perfect, of course, but a good track record of predictions is a strong indicator of future performance. And with these skills, superforecasters work for banks, governments and other organisations providing probability estimates for all kinds of risks as well as training analysts in forecasting.

In a system where forecasters are punished for getting it wrong and rewarded for getting it right, the most accurate people float to the top, and when they work together on a team, they become even more accurate.

The forecasts

Last week we gathered a small group of well-calibrated forecasters with good track records to look at the UK’s pandemic outlook over the next few months. With Britain facing both the worst period of the crisis but also an exit strategy with the vaccine roll-out, “when will this end?” is the most urgent question everyone is asking right now.

We can’t promise clairvoyance, but we made the best use of our team’s skills and produced the following set of estimates on three topics:

  • How bad the daily death toll will get
  • How many vaccines we’ll have administered at the end of February
  • When daily deaths will first fall below 100

Superforecasters cannot predict exactly when the pandemic will be over, but these three questions act as proxies for the questions of how bad it will get, how soon an individual is likely to get a vaccine, and when the pandemic will recede. A double-digit daily death toll does not mean the end of the nightmare, but with large-scale vaccinations taking place it will certainly mean is in sight.

These forecasts are presented as the median estimate of the group; the principle of the “wisdom of crowds”, the idea first suggested by Francis Galton that the median of any large number of guesses will usually be fairly accurate, applies to experienced forecasters as much as anyone.

We also include our “80% confidence” interval as an expression of the uncertainty surrounding our forecast. For example, our central estimate that the death toll will peak at 1,278 with an 80% confidence interval of 892 to 5,750, means we think there’s only a 10% chance it’ll be less than 892 and only a 10% chance it’ll be greater than 5750. (The confidence intervals are represented by the blue rectangles, and the central estimates with the red lines.)

The worst of the pandemic

The median estimate of the group was for the 7-day average of daily deaths to peak at 1,278, but with an 80% confidence interval of 892 — 5,750

Alongside the predictions, we note down anonymous comments from the forecasters in the team to explain their reasoning. Among the notes accompanying this question, perhaps the most optimistic was that there is a “small chance we are at the peak now”.

On the other hand, the worst-case scenario is if the hospital system collapses and we are forced to “en mass palliate anyone over 60/65” and the most pessimistic predicted 5,000 deaths a day. The big factors were new virus strains and “poorly managed vaccination centres causing infections among the most vulnerable and highest priority population”.

However, with 160,000 infections a day currently in the UK and a fatality rate just below 1%, 1,400 deaths a day seems likely.

Another forecaster also predicted that a third wave was “likely” once the current lockdown ended, “with quite possibly the highest caseload yet, but [was] unlikely to have as many fatalities due to prioritised vaccination of elderly and otherwise-vulnerable” individuals.

A lot of this depends on whether the vaccine protects against any new strains, and how quickly those vaccines are rolled out.

 

The February Vaccine Target 

Millions of people are currently waiting for a letter informing them of their vaccination appointment, a jab that will end a year of house arrest and often extreme anxiety. The Prime Minister has promised two million jabs a week, and tens of thousands of lives, and millions of livelihoods, depend on getting the jabs out as soon as possible.

We asked the team to forecast how many vaccine doses will have been administered in the UK by the end of February and the central estimate was 12 million, with an 80% confidence interval of 6 million to 20 million.

Among the big questions are the supply and how much political pressure there will be for the distribution network to move faster. Two more vaccines, by Novavax and Johnson & Johnson, are also expected to get approval next month and that will also increase supply.

One forecaster predicted that “Boris’s current target was 13 million for end of February: best guess is they undershoot that slightly and ramp-up only really gets going in March/April
. this has been the consistent pattern of undershooting a bit throughout the pandemic.”

So with a median estimate of 12 million, you can find out when you and your loved ones are likely to receive theirs here.

In which month will deaths fall below 100 a day?

By estimating when deaths fall below 100 a day we can get some idea of when the virus is close to beaten.

Our group estimated April as the most likely month for daily deaths to fall below this level, with an 80% confidence interval of March to August.

Among the key unknowns are new strains, and also whether hospitals get overwhelmed “which results in cascading preventable deaths”. We can estimate when deaths will fall based on first wave patterns, when it took “two and a half months to get from 1k per day to below 100 in the March-July lockdown”, although the vaccination programme might accelerate that. Generally speaking, it takes about three weeks to half the deaths, and so following an expected peak in January, death rates will half four times by late April.

At this point, one forecaster suggests, the government will open up the economy and deaths will continue around 100 a day because this will be regarded as tolerable. Another believes this figure may continue until September, by which time a combination of vaccination and infection will have introduced herd immunity.

The most “optimistic” forecast suggested that we may have got deaths down by March but that might be because “we screw up” and “have killed everyone who could possibly die from it and therefore the virus has nowhere else to go”.

The most pessimistic suggested: “If there is a less successful vaccination programme, multiple policy errors such as keeping schools open once teachers have been vaccinated but not paying attention to cases/repeated attempted opening up, or mutations of the virus, then it might be December before deaths get below this level.”

But another thought that new drugs — the most recent breakthroughs came late last week — will have reduced the fatality rate fairly soon.

January and February 2021 are going to be very traumatic months for tens of thousands of people in the UK. But to be forewarned is to be forearmed, and if you’re worried about the next few weeks you might want to gain a better estimate of how bad it will get, when your vaccine will come, and most importantly when the nightmare will be over.

And perhaps next time that Britain faces a crisis of this magnitude, we’ll have systems in place that incentivise people to tell the truth, identifying those with strong track records of forecasting, rather than turning to those who tell us what we want to hear.

 


Michael Story is a GJP Superforecaster and co-founder of Maby Forecasting

MWStory

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Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago

One reason that deaths have shot up, is the huge number of tests taken before and since Christmas, which are now coming into the death stats.

When a tested person dies they end up in the stats.

If you count people with five fingers on each hand, and then count how many of them died, the number dying will be proportional to the number you are counting.

If you were to put a statistic out on the numebr of people with colds who die within the next 28 days, what do you think that graph would look like?

Now Covid IS killing people, don’t get me wrong. But until we remove sampling bias from our statistics, those statistics aren’t telling us very much.

Currently it appears to me that the NHS is under great strain because of the number of staff off with Covid. That is a legitimate concern. And the more you test, the more staff will be off.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

Plus the difficulty in providing care with all the ppe and restrictions.The quality of care in nursing homes, not being able to supplement care by family members, family members not being able to verify quality of care, family members not being able to socialize with dementia patient family members. Some very harsh truths are being ignored at present.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

There are two sets of figures in use. The PHE figures, which are more up to date, count deaths in hospital from any cause with a positive test, as you state, and I must say I’m not happy with them being used so cavalierly in public. But the ONS figures are based on death certificates which give Covid as either underlying or contributory cause of death.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

I agree.

I just disagree with you in that I believe in parts of the country where Covid has become endemic (i.e. they are getting a wave of second infections with a mutant strain) a large majority of Covid deaths have simply displaced seasonal pneumonia and flu as the underlying cause of death for those dying of old age.

In parts of the country still affected by a second pandemic wave of the first strain, Covid deaths are definitely not simply old age.

My conclusion is that very soon, vaccine or not, we will have to learn to live, and die with Covid, just as we accept Pneumonia

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

It’s a common misunderstanding that Pneumonia is necessarily an infection. It often is, but essentially it means inflammation in the lungs. The infections that cause pneumonia can be viral, bacterial or fungal. Pneumonia can also arise without infection – as in the case of auto-immune disorders where the body’s own immune system attacks lung tissue with no infection present.

Deaths from non-Covid related Pneumonia have probably decreased because the transmission of non-Covid infections has reduced due to Covid restrictions.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

See above. Your argument holds no validity as we have excess deaths.

gav.green
gav.green
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

That is all partly true but I am not sure that’s really the whole picture though, just look at occupancy levels at hospitals around the UK. They are clearly the busiest ever by a huge margin and why is that?

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  gav.green

I haven’t been able to find a source of digestible stats (i.e. not in an Excel spreadsheet) for occupancy figures. You can’t post a link, but would you be able to mention where to look?

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

https://www.england.nhs.uk/

An updated report is presumably due imminently

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Thanks

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

You can’t post links on here

Put the below into google

NHS statistics urgent-and-emergency-care-daily-situation-reports-2020-21/

Jean Redpath
Jean Redpath
3 years ago
Reply to  gav.green

Please have a look at the NHS England Sitrep reports online. On 3 January 2020 hospitals were at 83.2 percent occupancy of adult critical care beds (. On 3 January 2021 they were at 80.4 percent, albeit with somewhat greater capacity.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Jean Redpath

Thanks for the pointer.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

See above, he has not provided the full picture.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Jean Redpath

Looking at the national average is not useful. The same data shows 50 hospitals had a +90% capacity and a few were near 100%. In many hospitals the difference between 90% and 100% is just a few dozen beds. The date of the report is also now 9 days old, in which time daily admissions have grown by 1000 a day.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Jean Redpath

Oh dear, I read those statistics, compared with the official line and the news, and just got angry. This is a government driven by fear, misunderstanding and panic, not leadership at all.

David Blake
David Blake
3 years ago
Reply to  gav.green

One immediate cause of the high occupancy levels is the reduction in capacity. My county has 15% fewer beds available than the previous 2 winters, it is utterly amazing that they are not overwhelmed.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  David Blake

Capacity is not reduced, it’s increased. The number of doctors, nurses, ICU beds and general funding is higher than at any point in UK history.

Infection control measures and staff absences have had some impact however.

E Wyatt
E Wyatt
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

ICU capacity (though probably not staffing) has increased, but from what I’ve read, overall beds have reduced.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  E Wyatt

No, they have increased. Do a google search

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  gav.green

I checked the figures up to the 3rd January on the excle spreadsheets.

Interestingly, the occupancy is lower than 2018 ( abad year admittedly).

Having seen an item on the news about how alarming Croydon Hospital was, I checked 3rd January this year vs 3rd January 2018.

Oh dear. Croydon was at 100% capacity for the whole of the first week of 2018 but has still some capacity this year.

I’m beginning to see as story here.

Testing shot up prior to Christmas, and as a result, cases shot up. Couple this with the ‘mutant strain’ causing less dangerous second infections, and it seems that the government has misread the statistics and the news have put out alarming stories about high occupancy rates and field morgues with absolutely no context.

The alarmist talk in the news (both ITV and BBC) now seems to be simple moralising propaganda driven by bad reading of statistics. I don’t mind doing my bit to keep infections down this winter, but the more I read the government published facts, rather than the news the angrier I get. Who needs conspiracy theories when the government numbers for the South East clearly contradict their propaganda?

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

The media love to spread alarm and fear. One of the big problems is the cry wolf and the mispresenting of figures. I expect the lies told by the government in October have made more people sceptical now, where as it does currently appear to be much more serious – based on simple deaths.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

As far as the hospitals are concerned, cases and capacity (beds + suitably trained staff) is only half the story.
Unfortunately, if you do get hospitalised with this beastie you are likely to be much sicker and stay in hospital much longer than you would with flu. So … discharges are not keeping up with increasing admissions. Hence the current concerns about the next 3 – 4 weeks or so and your Croydon example – they know, for sure that it is going to get worse for them.

David Blake
David Blake
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

The NHS is under great strain because of the
reduced capacity compared to previous winters. We would be having trouble even if Covid didn’t exist, so how have those running the NHS let this loss of capacity happen? It is less clear to me why capacity is reduced, presumably because fewer people are at work, but again the causes for that are many. Are they all off sick? Or have they decided to quit and care for their children because their vulnerable older family are isolating and can’t do it?

Stephen Collins
Stephen Collins
3 years ago
Reply to  David Blake

There are indeed a lot off sick, self isolating because they often come into contact with people with COVID. Also the number of beds has been reduced, because social distancing.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  David Blake

Capacity is not reduced, it’s increased. The number of doctors, nurses, ICU beds and general funding is higher than at any point in UK history.

Infection control measures and staff absences have had some impact however.

John Alexander
John Alexander
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

You can fund as much as you like. If you don’t have the competent staff to run the operation you end up with the NHS who are a bottomless pit. Governments trying to run hospitals fail everywhere.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  John Alexander

Medical staff numbers are at a record high.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

It’s increased but by nowhere near enough, the extra funding was denied because track and trace was going to save the day.
The government and advisors convinced themselves that their system was working well (ignoring summer etc) and that it was under control.

There seems to have been little official planning or innovation around what could have reasonably been predicted as a very bad winter.

Whilst our vaccine rollout currently seems to be better than most if one looks at Israel you see what happens with actual planning and a desire to get things done.

I believe their health service is also competing non-profit orgs, probably the best solution.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

No one in the world predicted a new variant with 50% increase transmissibility. However hospital capacity is still not full and infections are now beginning to fall off, so they clearly had sufficient capacity.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Mutations were predicted as possible. Some people consider that the European Variant was a lot more transmissible/deadly than that seen in China. This may or may not be true. It of course makes sense that the more transmissible variants will spread faster, I think the % is very much up for debate.

Are infection rates actually starting to fall? I’d like to think so, I hope they’re more reaching peak – we won’t know for a while. Only weekly figures average out well.

But even if they peaked today we’re talking about the main hospital surge being in 2 weeks time. And there’s already ~30,000 Covid patients in Hospital now (I’m not sure how many are there for Covid vs aquired Covid in hospital, max 25% I beleive).

Linda Baddeley
Linda Baddeley
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

I read that, in some hospitals, up to 40% of Covid infections were caught in the hospital by patients in there for other conditions.

Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Is it 50% increase in the”old” strain now or 50% increase on what the old strain increased at, at its most potent?
I ask this because it appears the new strain has dominated the weakening old strain in several areas. I would expect to be able to run 50%faster than a 75 year old former olympic sprinter NOW but wouldn’t be anywhere near him at his peak if you get my drift

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

COVID was already relatively infectious with an R rate of between 2 and 3.5. So the new variant has an R rate between 3 and 5. That is considered highly infectious.

Martin Davis
Martin Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

I think it’s clear that this government does not do planning and foresight in any consistent manner. But it’s also important to realise that they have been constrained by the reduction in public health capacity due to cuts instituted by previous governments. And a mindset which sees private enterprises as the way to deliver their COVID health solutions. This mindset goes back a long way.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Davis

And a mindset which sees private enterprises as the way to deliver their COVID health solutions

What by ignoring the private sectors offers to help and centralising everything, Remember early on when private sector and University labs offered to help with testing and were rebuffed by PHE.

Recently and only through campaigning have Pharmacies been allowed to give the jab.

Private sector isn’t always the solution, and I expect the doomed track and trace is such as example – although it was always doomed.

On the flip side I’ve worked in both public and private sector and some private sector companies that achieve the same Red Tape levels as government, indeed several places were worse.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Davis

The government did detailed planning and funding. It’s why our hospitals are coping even now, with the world’s most transmittable variant of the virus producing numbers no one expected.

Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

you are a government spokesperson aren’t you?
You are probably classing the nurses in training who are a hindrance not help at the moment in the figures. Lets be honest here the Government (advisers) have got it wrong on so many fronts and the bilge we are being fed gets ever more comical

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

No, I am only classing fully trained doctors and nurses FTE in employment.

If you knew how to use google, or where not so paranoid, then you would not of embarrassed yourself by refusing to accept something that anyone can confirm in 2 minutes.

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  David Blake

How many EU nurses have left the UK in the last few years? Would be interested to know.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
3 years ago
Reply to  David Blake

Staffing levels are very low. Capacity is restricted by nurses and doctors. 1.3m foreign nationals have left the UK, taking with them plenty of healthcare workers. The damage done to recruitment by the removal of the nursing bursary and the crisis orientated environment that the NHS has become, prior to Covid.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

Your explanation is utterly discredited as we have massive ‘excess deaths’. To suggest it’s a coincidence that the number of excess death roughly equals the number of covid deaths is ludicrous.

Andrew McGee
Andrew McGee
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

and the 7-day average for Covid deaths is still going steadily upwards. Todat is has reached 985. Tomorrow it is likely to exceed 1,000. That’s 365,000 a year, an enormous number. I am sceptical of any suggestion that is is going to fall rapidly, even allowing for the effect of vaccinations. Can we really achieve a 90% reduction in that figure (to bring it below 100) in the space of three months?

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew McGee

One of the few aspects of this pandemic that is universally clear is that it impacts mainly people above 65, particularly medically vulnerable. Every country in the world has the same experience.

Research has shown the vaccine reduces deaths to almost 0. So if the studies are valid, vaccinating everyone above 70 and medically vulnerable will kick in over the next few weeks, peaking 3 weeks after mid Feb (but taking another 3 weeks to show in the stats). So we should seen deaths fall dramatically by the time we get to the end of March, but should be safe to open up in the first week of March if not before. As the vaccine is further rolled out, things will get better and better.

I do however agree deaths will not completely go away, but excess deaths will (the media will ignore the distinction). Hospitalisations will also be a problem for the rest of the year. One third of ICU beds are for people under 60.

So if you argument is that we need to live with a high level of deaths and hospitalisation for sometime, I agree with you. We shall however open the economy regarding by the end of Q1.

Barry Sharp
Barry Sharp
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

“Research has shown the vaccine reduces deaths to almost 0.”
Please indicate where one can find peer reviewed evidence of this from an independent source.

Simon Giora
Simon Giora
3 years ago
Reply to  Barry Sharp

“… No COVID-19-related hospital admissions occurred in ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 recipients

https://www.thelancet.com/j……”

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Barry Sharp

This is based on the data released by Oxford University. The vaccine has only just been tested, so there is limited peer review available. I am afraid that is just the nature of the pandemic. Waiting a few years is not really an option (neither is waiting a few weeks).

However here is some expert opinion that you will not find on twitter:

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said, “In an ideal world, decisions about treatments would only be made within the exact parameters of the trials which have been conducted. In the real world, this is never so . . . We know that vaccinating only half of a vulnerable population will lead to a notable increase in cases of covid-19, with all that this entails, including deaths. When resources of doses and people to vaccinate are limited, then vaccinating more people with potentially less efficacy is demonstrably better than a fuller efficacy in only half.”

ndrew Pollard, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator into the trial of this vaccine, said that extending the gap between vaccines made biological sense. “Generally, a longer gap between vaccine doses leads to a better immune response, with the second dose causing a better boost. (With HPV vaccine for girls, for example, the gap is a year and gives better responses than a one month gap.) From the Oxford vaccine trials, there is 70% protection after the first dose up to the second dose, and the immune response was about three times greater after the second dose when the second dose was delayed, comparing second dose after four weeks versus second dose after 2-3 months,” he told The BMJ, referring to the MHRA’s summary of product characteristics.11

“With the Pfizer vaccine, there are no published data comparing shorter and longer gaps between doses because all participants had the second dose at 3-4 weeks. However, the biology is straightforward and will be the same as with all vaccines . . . The immune system remembers the first dose and will respond whether the later dose is at three weeks or three months.”

In a statement the British Society for Immunology said, “Most immunologists would agree that delaying a second ‘booster’ dose of a protein antigen vaccine (such as the two approved covid-19 vaccines) by eight weeks would be unlikely to have a negative effect on the overall immune response post-boost. We also would not expect any specific safety issues to arise for the individual due to delaying the second dose, other than an increased potential risk of disease during the extended period due to lowered protection.”

Linda Baddeley
Linda Baddeley
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

‘Research has shown the vaccine reduces deaths to almost 0.’
The vaccine is only just being ‘rolled out’. There are no statistics for research as yet.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Linda Baddeley

Most of the vaccines have been undergoing placebo controlled trials since the middle or start of last year. During this period tens of thousands of subjects have been vaccinated. Of those who received the vaccines, none died or were made seriously ill due to a COVID infection (after a few weeks post vaccine)

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

There are two meanings to the term ‘excess deaths’.

One is divergence from the Summer baseline, this is ‘Winter excess deaths’, also known as ‘seasonal deaths’.

The other which is used a lot these days is deaths greater than average for the time of year.

During the first wave, with the original strain, deaths above average for the time of year was larger than the numebr of coronavirus deaths, implying that Covid deaths had been undercounted. Not, I believe controversial.

Currently, in the Midlands and North, which have had a lower total percentage of deaths due to Covid over the year, deaths above average are a little lower than Covid cases, implying that some of the Covid patients would have died of natural causes, many died of Covid pure and simple.

Now look at London and the South East in the ONS excess deaths stats. There, we see no or very, very few deaths above average for the time of year. Why? Why are the Covid deaths we are seeing highly correlated with ‘Winter excess deaths’?

I personally conclude that the second wave in the South East and London looks far worse than it is. I can see how the statistics would terrify, but a 30% uplift in testing over a month is going to create mssive massive counting bias. Winter excess deaths have for time immemorial been caused by pneumonia and flu, but this Winter (2020-21), in London they have been beaten to the jump by Covid.

I expect deaths in London to rise above the average this season (2020-21), but I’d be surprised if the numbers outstrip 2017-18, in fact I predict that Winter excess deaths in the whole country will be only fractionally greater than 2017-18.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to prevent a spread, or vaccinate, given that many NHS staff are off sick, and dealing with very difficult prescriptive practices. But a sense of proportion is vital, given the disruption to education and livelihoods.

If Winter excess deaths this season match 2017-18, then the overreaction due to badly understood statistics simply shows the government to be woeful, and the public innumerate.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

I agree with most of what have have said. However ‘winter excess deaths’ is not useful in the context of a year long pandemic. Winter excess deaths is also something of a notional figure. Total excess deaths are much more meaningful. And you will see a very large jump in January for London due to the new variant.

Excess deaths last year are about 15% above the prior five year average. That is the highest increase since the second world war.

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

implying that Covid deaths had been undercounted. Not, I believe controversial

It is actually. Quite a lot of deaths didn’t even mention COVID on the death cert despite the government making it a notifiable disease and “mentioned on certificate” being a very lax standard, e.g. “Died of late stage dementia. Had a recent positive test for COVID-19” would be captured by that stat.

The reality is the first lockdown killed a lot of people, it was inevitable. Admissions to hospitals halved nearly overnight. You can’t tell people they have a patriotic, moral duty to stay away from hospitals to “save the NHS” and not have people sacrifice themselves. And that’s before you take into account the huge number of people with delayed surgeries, who will die due to the backlog that was created. The death toll from what happened in April/May will be coming due for years.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

The way I see it is that unless you can compare excess deaths with lockdown to excess deaths without lockdown (which for obvious reasons we can’t) you can talk about excess deaths forever and not come to any real conclusion.
You could argue that low excess deaths would indicate the government restrictions (ie lockdowns, masks, social distancing) were a success.
Not that anyone is arguing that, but it’s a valid interpretation.
Oh for a parallel universe to do such comparisons.

Louise Lowry
Louise Lowry
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

Many,many fewer people die of colds.

Leslie Cook
Leslie Cook
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

You are nuts! Until you start using a better test, you have no idea whether a patient truly did die of Covid because false positives influence diagnosis. Lateral flow test in Liverpool found .5% Covid. That’s a good place to start. Diamond Princess showed only about 80% were susceptible. That’s another good place to start. Also, you have to factor in improved outcomes with recent improved treatment. And of course, seasonality factor is huge.

Linda Baddeley
Linda Baddeley
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

And, since Covid hit, they’ve reduced the number of beds by somewhere between 7 and 10 thousand, to allow more distance between them.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

Not off ‘WITH’ covid, but isolating from ‘Exposure, or signs’ of covid.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

In my experience, the people I know, it’s off with COVID. Literally sick and in bed with the three classic symptoms and a positive test.

However, isolation from exposure is a furtehr drain on resources, yes.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago

I will make my own predictions.
It will decline in the summer and come back next winter.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

With Covid scare stories and vacination scare stories a regular feature in the media for a decade to come.

Honestly these predictions are laughable, 80% confidence over a massive range. I’m sadly willing to bet that deaths will peak well over the 800 a day. I would also hope that they’ll be well under the 5000.

One of the forecasters honestly gives deaths dropping below 100 a day as anytime from mid Feb to March 2020.

What’s sad is that many of these people playing around with this and silly models are intelligent people, using up resources. They’d be a lot better employed working in areas like vaccine development or some other actually useful field. If they were that great at forecasting they’d make a fortune gambling or in finance.

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

The facts wouldn’t appear to fit your worldview.

As explained by Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, the Imperial/Ferguson model from March was incredibly accurate given the data available at the time:

https://mobile.twitter.com/

As statisticians say, all models are wrong but some are useful.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

He’s talking about Imperial’s IFR estimate whixh went into their model. This was broadly middle ground by guesses back then. However as the replies note if you have to ignore the lowest IFR group < 18s to get 0.9 – otherwise it would be lower. So not actually amazingly accurate at all.

If you have the ability and experience spend 5 minutes looking at the model and it’s code. It’s all you’ll need to see.

If not search for professional reviews of it.

It is a joke, it’s just a hacked buggy mess. It’s written in 60s technology. Half the time it fails over, and there’s huge unintentional randomness when it runs.

The replies from the Imperial team show an incredible arrogance whist demonstrating their complete lack of professional software engineering experience.

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Yet the predictions in Imperial’s March report were broadly accurate. See, e.g., page 13:

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

See page 13. Pretty accurate.

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

I forecast the 18 Corona Variants will return in Autumn 2021, but over half the population will have ‘herd’ immunity whether they know or not. ”Spanish Flu” 1918-20 ran out of ‘hosts’ plus Isolation hospitals Spelled End of Worst pandemic ever.worse than black death or Plague 1665-66..,,Not Using Nightingale hospitals According to some internet sites have 6-8% capacity is wasteful&Mistake at £225million ..As Orson Welles says in his last directed movie 1974 ”f for fake” Experts are the new oracles &Wrong!!

Pauline Ivison
Pauline Ivison
3 years ago

Absolutely spot on. Those who think they know better have no common sense thus we are in this merry go round which will undoubtedly continue for…………

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago

Astrologers could come up with better results than these experts.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago

We don’t need predictions at all. People can not be saved by the measures or by the vaccine because the average age of death by Covid-19 was, is en will be 80. The same average age that most people die. That means that the majority of the vulnerable will pretty soon die anyway, the immune-system of an 80 year old with co-morbidity will barely react to whatever vaccine you inject. The only solution to this crisis, for everyone that still has a life ahead of them, is to be disobedient.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

The vaccines have been tested in older people too, they do think of these things. The average age thing though important is misused, when you get to 80 you can expect on average to live a lot longer than 2 years for example. Figures of around 7.5 years lost per Covid death have been estimated including their other health conditions, and that’s by people who are sceptical of lockdowns and rightly worried about the huge damage done by lockdown.

One of the point of mass vaccinations too is to induce herd immunity without needing to catch disease. So if for example all 80+ years olds aquired no immunity from the vaccine – they would still be protected by not being exposed to the virus in 1st place, because herd immunity stops outbreaks with no effort.

The biggest issue to me remains why we didn’t protect those who we knew were vulnerable and let other people make sensible judgements (I’d have stopped large events and encourage home working as min). Yes this would have been an expensive and challenging thing to do, but compared to the huge damage of lockdown and it’s ineffectiveness it would seem sensible.

Neil Mcalester
Neil Mcalester
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

The problem with your ‘mass vaccinations’ is that none of the current crop of ‘vaccines’ are actually vaccines at all. The definition of a vaccine;

” a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease.”

doesn’t apply to any of the current vaccines.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Mcalester

From a paper published in 2017 (my emphasis)

A description of the most powerful immunogen design vaccine strategies would clearly benefit from understanding how vaccines might work for each individual pathogen. Google defines a vaccine as “a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease.” The definition is lacking in that it is likely that cellular immune responses induced by immunization contribute, at least in some cases, to vaccine protection. The most successful vaccine strategies for the future will unravel the relative contributions of humoral and cellular immunity to protection for each pathogen and incorporate this knowledge into vaccine design.

Mike Fraser
Mike Fraser
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Mcalester

does it matter what it is called if it does the job?

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Mcalester

‘from the Latin vaccinia, associated with the adjective vaccinus, understanding anything related to cows’ The original vaccine was Cowpox, this was niether derived from Smallpox nor synthetic.

So the original vaccine doesn’t qualify as a vaccine.

There’s various names for different types of vaccines, the smallpox one falls into the category of Heterotypic apparently, where a non harmful virus from another species is used to give a good immune response.

And yes I merely googled this and whilst I’ve heard of Jenner and the origin of the name vaccine, I wouldn’t pretend to understand the various complexities within this field.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Mcalester

The Oxford vaccine is a vaccine in the traditional sense.

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Luke, unfortunately this is not the case. Check out Sebastian Rushworth MD. A medic from Sweden. Find him on DuckDuckGo. Don’t use google or Mozilla people. Heavily censored searches on them.
So Simon investigated all 3 vaccines based on published info on the trials and results.
You can see his work for yourself.
2 of the 3 vaccines were not tested on anyone over 65, or anyone with BMI over 25.
Pages and pages of analysis with conclusions.
Regarding having the vaccines himself, he states he definitely would NOT have 2 of them , Pziser and Astra, he explains why. If necessary he personally as a healthy young medic would be prepared to have the Moderna vaccine.

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
3 years ago
Reply to  John Ottaway

Please note, I am not recommending the Moderna vaccine here. I personally and my family and as Power of Attourney for my Mother in Law, none of us will be going anywhere near these vaccines.

juliegoldring
juliegoldring
3 years ago
Reply to  John Ottaway

Thanks for that reference to Rushworth John. That is the information I think needs to be communicated. The real safety and efficacy of the current vaccines.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  John Ottaway

When I looked up the I found a lot of reference to over 65’s, for example from New Scienctist regarding pfizer:

Does it work on over 65s

Yes. Trial participants were aged up to 85, and the efficacy in people
over 65 was 94 per cent ““ a tiny bit lower than the overall number but
still very protective, and much higher than some vaccine experts feared.
The vaccine hasn’t been tested in people aged over 85.

This sort of thing is repeated everywhere. Yes there’s some BS out there and google/youtube have acted like censors, but I’m fairly confident in the vaccines. They’ve got through standard trials, with regulation and real scientists. The difference between the science of vaccines and the lockdowns is huge, if lockdowns were on a trial they’d have been abandoned very early on as being very inefficent with massive side effects.

simejohnson
simejohnson
3 years ago
Reply to  John Ottaway

I wouldn’t rely on any information from Sebastian Rushworth. He graduated from med school in 2020. He is not yet a fully fledged doctor in his hospital. His articles are largely anecdotal and he clearly attempts to promote himself amongst right wing or libertarian websites by posting anti-lockdown propaganda. He’s a charlatan.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

But the vast majority of relatively healthy 80+ will also survive, without measures, without hospitalisation and without a vaccine. The majority of covid-death dies because they were already severely ill (diabetes, obese, cardiac problems, etc.,). Covid is almost always the last push, nothing less, nothing more. Most of the things that governments and virologist have invented past year mostly just stretches the proces of dying and, of course very important, brings down hospitalisations a little bit. Meanwhile it seems to me that the ‘collateral’ damage is not so collateral anymore….

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

Excess deaths show it well, in April 2020 it’s a massive spike with a further 20,000+ not accounted for by Covid. Your list of severly ill is a bit strange: diabetes, obese? Both often linked and not usually defined as severly ill. I except heart problems, cancer etc.

The excess figures for Jan this year and I expect Feb will be very high.

Look I’m sceptical of many of the measures (and the authoritarian zeal) and I think the government messenging around Covid has been a disaster. Basically:
Protect the NHS, Stay at Home, Die alone.

There should from day 1 have been a clear message to vulnerable groups to explain that they are upto 10000 times more likely to die from Covid than younger/healthier people. Supermarket deliveries should have been reserved for this group with volunteer support (of which there was a huge underused number). Anything to protect these people. Instead healthy 20 year olds stayed at home, whilst unhealthy 65 year olds went out to work.

The rest of us could have treated this like a ‘bad flu’ (in common terms) something no one goes out of their way to catch, but not usually fatal. Apart from being far less damaging this may have saved a lot of lives.

And whilst Covid can in theory kill anyone – so can anything. Far more healthy under 60s die in car accidents than with Covid.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

I am 70 years old and I run half marathons. I agree in one way with you that old (and young) people do not keep themselves fit for life. But when I speak to other people who are of a similar age they would fight tooth and nail for an extra 10 years, whatever the cost to the NHS. One day you will be in the same position. If you are lonely and lack close family you may still say the same thing in the future. But if you have grandchildren and you want to see them grow up, you will change your mind.

Jonathan Patrick
Jonathan Patrick
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

With 7.5 years lost per COVID death, think about how many deaths would need to be avoided by the lockdown in order for the cost per life year saved to be reduced to the typical threshold for health interventions of $50,000/life year.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

There’s good work by a Risk Management Professor, I think Phillip Thomas. He estimates at 7.5 years lost from 250,000 deaths that the life years lost are still well below the 1/3 year life exptency lost by all 67 million of us due to lockdown economic damage. Indeed by a factor of 10.

Jonathan Patrick
Jonathan Patrick
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

But that isn’t the right comparison. It is not that the lockdown is causing everyone a loss in life expectancy, it is that the money we are spending/forgoing through the lockdown is not now available for other health interventions that potentially could save more life years at less cost. We are trading off other people’s lives in an attempt to save lives now. We just don’t see that. It is why we have thresholds of cost per life year saved so that we can compare interventions on their overall benefit. Take the amount of deficit racked up to fight COVID and imagine how many life years could be saved if that type of money was thrown at, say the eradication of tuberculosis or malaria.

Jonathan Patrick
Jonathan Patrick
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

I am sorry, I completely misread your comment! Still stand by what I wrote but it re-enforces what you shared rather than contradicting it!

Granville Stout
Granville Stout
3 years ago

Correct, the average age of death with covid present on the death certificate is 82. Life expectancy in the UK is 81.16 years!

Kevin Ford
Kevin Ford
3 years ago

Life expectancy at birth is 81 years (higher for women and lower for men). Life expectancy at 81 years is a further 10 years on average (ONS). This drops significantly with ill health.

J J
J J
3 years ago

This is common statistical misunderstanding (repeated ad nauseam all over the internet). People who are 80 are not ‘due to die anyway’. They live on average another 10 years according to the research. The referenced average life expectancy is for the entire population, not people who are 80.

tim97
tim97
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

JJ, the reason it’s repeated ad nauseam is because it’s correct!

In the ONS report “National life tables ““ life expectancy in the UK: 2017 to 2019” from September 2020 we can clearly see the following:

Life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2017 to 2019 was 79.4 years for males and 83.1 years for females

I think you’re getting confused with the fact that IF someone reaches the age of 80 then they might expect to live another 10 years on average. Of course many don’t (reach 80) and you can argue that they may have reached 80, 81, 82 etc against all odds.

So, just because you’ve hit 80 and then succumb to Covid it didn’t mean that you were going to live another 8-10 years. I’m afraid that statistically speaking those that die of Covid are around (or slightly older) than the normal average age of death.

I think we all need to take some care to get facts right and not twist data to suit our narrative… the government have got that covered!

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago

Sorry, but if all the 80+ year old people die, the average age of death with be less than 80. A mathematical certainty: the average of numbers less than 80 is less than 80.

Aden Wellsmith
Aden Wellsmith
3 years ago

Here’s my prediction.
When the deaths from the season effect go, the government will claim a massive success of its lock down, and its vaccination program of people who already have immunity.

My second prediction. In the UK there are guidelines as to when to spend and when to not spend on heath treatment. It’s £30,000 a year of quality life.

Have they done the cost assessment of the lock down? of course not.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Aden Wellsmith

If you do a back of envelope it’s at least a million per person. However the problem is, we don’t know the baseline. If the government took no action, or less action, how much better would the economy be? There would still be massive falls in GDP and the government would still need to spend money to those impact. We also don’t know how many additional people would die if we had not took action.

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

But the point is they at least need to make an attempt at this sort of economic analysis. And it appears that they simply are not. And as for not knowing how many additional people would die if “we had not took action” – there are studies which show that lockdown measures make no difference to overall mortality. I can’t post a link of course but do a search for a Lancet study by Chaudry and others “A country level analysis measuring the impact of government actions ….”

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Trish Castle

They have attempted to look at social and economic costs. But it’s almost impossible. Thanks for the Lancet reference, it was an interesting study. But it only had data upto June, so lacks validity. They also had limited data available back then too.

Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

“The cost of the cure” was published in December by civitas.org.uk

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

That paper agrees with post. To quote them:

“Inevitably, many of our estimates rely on certain counterfactual assumptions which are by their nature unprovable. In all cases, the assumptions and estimates have been set out; and in all cases these assumptions and estimates have been cautious.”

The other contentious and unprovable estimate is the ‘benefits’. That is, how many people have been saved from illness, hospitalization and death. And what would the additional financial cost be if we had not saved them ‘in terms of additional hospital capacity required and public fear about mass infections’

So we are back to square one. You do not advance the debate by pretending any of this is simple or easy.

Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I think it’s pretty clear using QALY that the government has spent well in excess of what would normally be spent. Even allowing for Ferguson’s hideous calculation it was still excess. I don’t need to go any further.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

You really need to go further and read more. You are suffering from confirmation bias. You ignore any research which contradicts your pre-judged position and jump on any research that confirms it.

Ferguson was wrong, he underestimated how many deaths we would suffer. The 500K figure was never a projection, if you had read the report or listened to any of his interviews you would know that.

Gerald gwarcuri
Gerald gwarcuri
3 years ago

The 80% confidence limits in this exercise are so broad that the actual predictions look rather silly. That’s what dart boards are made for.

Joel Birkeland
Joel Birkeland
3 years ago

Agreed.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago

Yes, but at least they are honest. Most forecasters are absolutely certain.

teresa_d_wood
teresa_d_wood
3 years ago

for goodness sake! what a waste of time and effort. this is all based on accepting that PCR testing is accurate. No data can be relied on. Whilst we are still supporting this flawed measure of the disease in our population we will never be free of the restrictions. It is endemic. Yes vaccinate the elderly and the vulnerable, but stop mass testing. It is feeding the hysteria. Only pillar 1 testing, with clinical diagnosis should be accepted as a positive test. We need honest reporting on underlying reasons for death where covid is also mentioned. we need to know the demographics of those that are dying, on a daily basis. with this information we can begin to understand how these people are getting infected. not only that but the message of who is getting sick and dying can begin to be disseminated so that the population can get some sort of perspective. Context needs to be given, we need to know how many people are discharged, daily, from hospital, how many recovered people are in hospital, but are bed blocking because there is nowhere for them to be discharged to. and, most importantly, people should be encouraged to get the virus. I have had it (ok.. i am relying on pillar 2 testing to say that) and so has my husband, my adult daughter and her boyfriend. All sorts of mixed symptoms, none of them serious or debilitating. Getting this disease is not a death sentence for the vast majority of the population. We have to get context, balance and all the information out there, and quickly. Every day this pantomime continues we are plunging thousands more into poverty. It is so utterly selfish and short sighted. It makes me ashamed to be a human being. This is being driven by nothing other than greed. It is truly disgusting.

juliegoldring
juliegoldring
3 years ago
Reply to  teresa_d_wood

Maybe this would be helpful in terms of some of the stats you were looking for? I found it helpful.

https://www.worldometers.in

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  teresa_d_wood

PCR is irrelevant in this context. They were talking about deaths and hospital admissions. You don’t have false positive excess deaths or excess hospital admissions.

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

“However, with 160,000 infections a day currently in the UK and a fatality rate just below 1%, 1,400 deaths a day seems likely.” It seems this prediction uses the results of PCR tests rather than clinical diagnoses.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Trish Castle

If you only used clinical diagnosis, it would be the CFR and not the IFR.

Remember, most people getting diagnosed with PCR have symptoms, that’s what they are having the test . PCR is no prefect, but it’s the best we have have for now.

Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

“Most people getting diagnosed with PCR have symptoms”
No they don’t. The cycle threshold used in PCR is excessive and pointless only insofar as to drive up cases, which suits the narrative.
As posted previously I believe you are a government spokesperson

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

The cycle threshold used in PCR actually varies by country and in some cases even by manufacturer. Some set it too high, others too low. Currently false negatives are a far bigger issue in PCR than false positives.

ONS estimate false positives as being less than 1%

“As posted previously I believe you are a government spokesperson” Are you really that far down the rabbit hole? You are now seeing spies around every corner? For your own sake, you need to take a rest from social media and reflect on your own life. You are not going to find the promised land on twitter or youtube.

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

The ONS has no idea what the FP rate is by their own admission. And it’s factually the case that most people don’t have symptoms because the positivity rate is very low – most people getting tested don’t test positive at all. Positivity rate in the UK is currently 10% and declining. Given how hyper-sensitive these tests are, for 90% to test negative means far more than 90% are symptomless … even given the very broad set of COVID symptoms.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike H

You overlook the infection surveys (ONS and REACT) which both use a fixed random sample of tests. Asymptomatic cases average is about 30%.

Positivity rates are currently about 10% and falling, due to the lockdown. They did however increase from a rate of 0.8% in summer to a peak of 12% a few weeks ago. Positivity rates correlate quite well with lockdowns (falling during and increasing before and afterwards).

If positivity rates can be as low as 0.8%, you cannot have a false positive rate which is higher than this.

Incidentally, the UK tests more than any other major country, which is why our infection rate often looks worse than other countries, but often may not be.

Guy Lachlan
Guy Lachlan
3 years ago

Disappointingly broad conclusions. Seems Superforecasters are little better than the man on the Clapham omnibus.

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago
Reply to  Guy Lachlan

Worse in fact, but better paid.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

In the recent Frontiers in Medicine study, one of the very few, for obvious reasons, large scale ‘meta’ studies looking into the varying impacts of covid on the various countries across the globe and their possible reasons points to a response, particularly in the Western more advanced economies with increasing aging populations but with fast slowing or now declining life expectancies and increasingly prevalent chronic health problems where the ravages of covid seem far more apparent, akin to King Canute on the beach.

Ironically, King Canute, of course, famously performed this piece of political theatre precisely in order to finally prove to his trusting wide-eyed subjects the limitations of his power, unlike our current woeful crop of political masters who seem to have seen it as a unique opportunity to demonstrate the extent of it in the face of what future (and current) evidence suggests was all but inevitable and beyond their control.

David Slade
David Slade
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

That’s true – it is worrying that our current crop of leaders have less wisdom than an 11th century Danish king.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  David Slade

Thank god we have Trump. The wisest of wise men.

bsnellgrove
bsnellgrove
3 years ago

The whole house of cards is unsafe. The experts have been brainwashed to varying degrees. The very existence of the virus is questionable. The testing is one of the most unreliable ever offered up. There is no scientific basis for any aspect e.g. masks, lock downs etc The Government are hopelessly compromised with conflict of interest. How can there be any objective ‘forecast’.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  bsnellgrove

True

rosalie.c.tonkin
rosalie.c.tonkin
3 years ago
Reply to  bsnellgrove

So you’re saying there is perhaps no Covid 19 in circulation at all?

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  bsnellgrove

Perhaps you are the one who is brainwashed?

To conclude that anyone with professional expertise, experience and training is ‘brainwashed’ and only people with no training, expertise or experience are correct, is problematic to say the least. Perhaps its also a little stupid.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I think what Brian Snellgrove is trying to say is that any scientists that voice support for the severe lockdown measures are labelled ‘experts’ by the mainstream media. Those scientists that disagree with the current measures being put in place are ignored by the media. Personally, I would take rather take my chances with the virus and live life as normally as possible than be cooped up in my house all day. I’m also cautious of a vaccine that has not been longitudinally tested. The crazy thing is while people wear masks and isolate themselves in their homes, I’m the one who is often accused of being a conspiracy theorist.

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
3 years ago

The forecasting that interests me is how many people are going to suffer such serious mental trauma and collapse that they cease to function effectively. Losing your business. Losing your ability to feed and house your family. Children denied the company of their friends. The old and lonely in despair and just wasting away or simply no longer motivated to live.,
Do not tell me this is an exaggeration as I see it all around me. People I always thought strong just in despair.
All along we have concentrated on the ‘science’ whatever that means and neglected the human.
No society can function on that basis. It has now gone so deep that it will scar us for years.
This government has never understood this at all. Even now it continues to increase the fear level and the apprehension of what it will do next. Make masks compulsory the moment you leave home? Three metres distancing. More businesses shut down. No normal life unless you have a vaccine passport. It is like living with an abuser.
What I can forecast is that this is one of those key events in our history and like all such the true effects will take around three years to surface. Also that those who lead us out of it are not visible at the moment. They are not those in power or having influence now. This is my prediction and I stand by it.
Roughest of rides ahead.

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Smith

If only we lived in Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, or Taiwan, and we wouldn’t have to be worrying about any of this. But sadly neither our governments, nor enough of our citizens, have the qualities necessary

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

Never blame the people. A leader is a person who accepts responsibility.
I saw the way Queensland acted and honestly no thank you.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Smith

Well said, bloodshed beckons on a scale not seen since the fall of the Roman Republic.

“Sine missione”, as we used cry on those great days in the Amphitheater.

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago

Basically this seems a range of predictions from good to bad with a lot of hedging.

I don’t see how that qualifies as superforecasting.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  nick harman

How do excess deaths today compare to excess deaths in the spring? They are using mass pcr testing to coverup the increase in herd immunity.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

From ONS :

In Week 50 of 2020, (the most complete provisional figures they have) the number of deaths registered was 14.3% above the five-year average (1,542 deaths higher).
This compares with the peak on the ONS graph around 10 April, of about 11,000 excess deaths above the 5 year average.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago

Week of April 17 deaths were over 20,000 with expected deaths of 10,000. Now we have excess deaths of about 2000 over instead of 10,000 over. How many of these excess deaths today are form the exceptionally poor care being provided by the NHS? It is criminal who they handling treatments and patients…… from the ONS “The provisional number of deaths registered in England and Wales decreased from 11,520 in Week 52 (week ending 25 December 2020) to 10,069 in Week 53 (week ending 1 January 2021). The number of deaths was 26.6% above the five-year average (2,115 deaths higher).”

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peop

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I have no view on when or if Covid will disappear, of how many will be vaccinated by a certain date. But I will say that one of the (many) reasons I gave up on the MSM – certainly in terms of funding it in any way – was the the way in which its predictions were always hopelessly inaccurate.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Then you should also give up on social media. Often projections there are not just wrong, they are ludicrous.

David Morrey
David Morrey
3 years ago

I do worry that the data on Covid deaths is not going to change much after vaccination roll out. I base that on the now well known facts that the average Covid victim is 83 or so and has two or more underlying health conditions. The actuarial data on such a person is that they will, on the average, be dead in six months even without Covid. Since it seems to be the case that the vaccine won’t stop Covid being present in someone’s system (and in any event a PCR test will pick up Covid in someone’s body even if the virus has been dead for months) it is inevitable that a) large number of people in the vulnerable group will still die, and b) when they do many of them will test positive for Covid and will thus be counted as Covid deaths.

I hope I am wrong but I reckon if the data points we currently focus on remain ‘sacrosanct’ then there is going to be plenty of justification in that data for anyone that thinks lockdowns should be retained.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

Your issue is easily addressed by the excess death figures. If your concern is correct, there will be no excess deaths. We monitor these in detail each week and so far they have been remarkably consistent with COVID deaths (they are about 10% less, suggesting there is some overdiagnosing, but not that much)

David Morrey
David Morrey
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Maybe. But is that excess deaths to last year? To a five year average? To a 20 year average? To age adjusted mortality expectations? To a prior month? To a prior ‘flu season’ of several months duration? Everytime I see a reference to excess deaths I know there is selectivity in the measure and that use of a different comparator would produce a different answer. For instance, JJ, you quote excess deaths since October to (I think) a five year average at a few points in this thread. Does it matter that deaths over that period were higher than today in two of the five years? Maybe not – but maybe there is such a thing as excess deaths well within the normal range.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

Every base measure you suggested indicates increased deaths in 2020. The last time we had similar age adjusted mortality was in 2008, so we have wiped out 12 years of reducing mortality.

Btw, I am not suggesting lockdown was worth it. I suspect it wasn’t. But I refuse to pretend COVID is not killing people and would of killed a lot more people if we had not taken action. I am afraid the options are shit and shitter.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

ONS will answer most of your questions with nice graphs showing average and range over last 5 years (if you go back any further than that you have to start taking account of total population number changes – as ONS explains) :

“Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional : …”

or EUROMOMO if you want to see figures going back further, on one graph.
Full excess death stats won’t be complete for 2020 until end of February I would think, given reporting delays with coroners courts delaying death certification.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

Public Enquiry,will Find ”No” Guilty men/Women it’ll say Government ministers did their best ..But Logistics alone have been A cockup….vallance,Whitty,Ferguson have destroyed A lot of ”Scientific” belief ..Data has been skewered to suit A Lockdown…

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

As I have said elsewhere on the post, if you are lonely and single and young your view is correct. If you are 80 years old and you want to see your grandchildren grow for a few years, you have a different viewpoint. I suppose that all viewpoints are allowed.
But if you are correct it means that older people who have heart attacks should not be treated and the same with cancer sufferers. The NHS would make so much money that it would go into profit.

Ronan Sleep
Ronan Sleep
3 years ago

I looked hopefully at the title, with added hope because it was on unherd.

Unfortunately, without some clue about the thinking behind the bars, the numbers are not very informative. The things being predicted are too vague and multifactorial, much more so than the weight of Galtons ox. Scenarios, with associated narratives and comments, would have been very interesting. Perhaps you can try to get them?

One clear observation: the high outliers have relatively massive error bars.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

It will end when politicians have drained all the utility they can from various steps that have had no effect beyond harming the lives of citizens who are treated more like subjects. There remains an insistence on treating this virus with an outsized sense of panic and it’s gone on long enough that the panic has been instilled among laypeople.

“Cases” is somehow translated into “deaths,” despite no evidence of such. A higher caseload of a respiratory virus during colder months has been occurring since the dawn of respiratory viruses. Except for the flu, apparently, which has miraculously disappeared from the US.

simejohnson
simejohnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It’s hard to start with how much misinformation us embedded in your short post. Even your cult messiah Trump was aware of the significant dangers of this virus nearly 12 months ago. Unsurprisingly, he lied about it.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Covid is nothing like flu or any of the other recent common winter respiratory virus as a quick perusal of Figure 18 “Number of admissions with pneumonia (not COVID-19) by month,
2016-2020 , compared with confirmed COVID-19 during 2020″ in the ICNARC report will show : “ICNARC report on COVID-19 in critical care:
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
8 January 2021″ It is an endothelial, thrombotic, multi-system disease which is why it is so rapacious of NHS resources.

+ the VA study from the US :
“Notably, compared with patients with influenza, patients with COVID-19 had two times the risk for pneumonia, 1.7 times the risk for respiratory failure, 19 times the risk for ARDS, and 3.5 times the risk for pneumothorax, underscoring the severity of COVID-19 respiratory illness relative to that of influenza.”

Cases and deaths. Yes the mortality rate in hospitalised Covid patients improved from March – August as one would expect as clinicians got to grip with the management of the disease and the demography of the people admitted, changed. However, if you don’t catch Covid then you won’t die from it’s effects.

ONS have got provisional death data up to week 49 for 2020. 34 of those weeks show non Covid deaths less than the 5 year average so I see no epidemic of non Covid deaths as predicted by some people.

The reasons there has been so little flu this year both in the Southern hemisphere and now in the North are pretty obvious I think :
1. A larger than average take up of flu vaccinations
2. Islolating, quarantine, masks, physical distancing and washing your hands works particularly well against flu as well as mitigating Covid.

3. The Southern hemsiphere managed Covid particularly well this year with their NPIs – which suppressed flu transmission as well. In part, the South seeds the North with their viruses as the northern autumn and winter come on, via travel (much curtailed this year). Anyone travelling North was carrying little or no flu with them.

Iliya Kuryakin
Iliya Kuryakin
3 years ago

When you ask the wrong question you’re likely to get the wrong answer. It’s not the number of Covid deaths but the total number of excess deaths that are the key measure. There was a massive spike in excess deaths in April, reflecting the first Covid wave. Excess deaths in late 2020 were a significant increase over average but less than the numbers in early 2018. Deaths from flu and pneumonia have been low as Covid deaths have increased, whilst the average age of death has remained over 80; this suggests that many people dying in the last few months would have died if Covid did not exist from other causes. So deaths will go down from late March and there may be a small increase in excess death next winter as a result of a small number of people being vulnerable.

Stephen Collins
Stephen Collins
3 years ago
Reply to  Iliya Kuryakin

Correct. And in the UK at least, there have been very few weeks since May with statistically significant excess deaths (and one of those was the week it was 37 degrees across southern England). Which suggest COVID overdiagnosis.

J J
J J
3 years ago

That is just plain wrong. FFS, go to the ONS site. We have had almost constance excess deaths since October. I don’t understand people like you who write with such confidence, without having a clue

Google

Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional: week ending 1 January 2021

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Iliya Kuryakin

You are not using the latest data. Excess deaths are now significantly above the 5 year average and 2018 from about October to December and will no doubt continue in Q1 this year. It’s all available from ONS

Iliya Kuryakin
Iliya Kuryakin
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I was using the ONS data.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Iliya Kuryakin

Then you don’t understand them. Total excess deaths for the year are substantially above the five year average – about 15% above. This is the highest percentage increase since the second world war.

Iliya Kuryakin
Iliya Kuryakin
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I understand them perfectly as explained in my original post. Most of the excess death were during the Spring wave of the disease. The excess deaths have been at a lower level in the winter though above average – but still lower than the excess deaths in early 2018.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Iliya Kuryakin

You are referring to winter excess deaths, not excess deaths. The former is a notional figure. You need to focus on total excess deaths. For the months Oct to December they are higher than the five year average.

Iliya Kuryakin
Iliya Kuryakin
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Yes, but they do not exceed the five year average by as much as in early 2018.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
3 years ago

I wish the emphasis was in “excess deaths” over the whole season instead of this very arbitrary and easy to manipulate concept of “covid” deaths.

If in 2017 you had tested for influenza like we do for covid, and assign influenza deaths to anyone who died after 28 days of testing positive the numbers would be quite comparable, with nowadays.

This winter’s excess deaths are by no means re-markable when compared with previous winters.

I just wonder how many people have died within 28 days of getting the vaccine, though.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

You can’t just look at winter excess deaths, the pandemic has been around outside of Winter.

Total 2020 excess deaths are the highest on record (compared to prior five years). Total deaths are the highest since 1985. Mortality rates are the highest since 2008

George Page
George Page
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Can you please cite references or point to sources for these numbers?

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  George Page

You can’t post links on this site. However all of the data I referenced is on the ONS site. Excess death data is published weekly, there is no excuse for people not understanding these figures (it was clear in the first few months of the pandemic, it’s not now).

Google:

ONS Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional: week ending 1 January 2021

ONS Monthly mortality analysis, England and Wales: November 2020

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Oh, I remember the 2008 lockdowns. Devastating they were.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

You make only half a point.

It’s true the risk of dying now is the same as 2008, in the aggregate. And as you imply, I don’t recall anyone being too upset or scared back then.

However you need to remember mortality improves every year (since the birth of capitalism) outside of wars and natural disasters. If there was a terrorist attack and they killed 80K people, would you respond ‘so what, just as many people died in 2008’? Of course not, so why do that in relation to COVID?

If your general point is that we just need to take this pandemic on the chin and not close down the economy, I largely agree with you.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

Given some of the stories I’m hearing from around the world about people dropping dead after taking the vaccine, it may be the case that the vaccine kills more healthy young people than than the virus does.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Given some of the stories I’m hearing from around the world

We all hear lots of stories, some of them may even be true. The names of five of those people who dropped dead after taking the vaccine, please.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

To be fair, vaccinating 80 year olds is going to have that effect. With only a 10 year life expectancy, the chance of an 80+ year old dying in any given week is pretty high, about 0.2% by a back of fag packet calculation . If the government has vaccinated 500000, then roughly 1000 of them will have died this week , 1000 more of them will die next week, and so on

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

This winter’s excess deaths are by no means re-markable when compared with previous winters.

I disagree. This winter’s weekly deaths, since mid-October, have been 10% (about 1,000/week) higher than the worst of the past ten years. I find that remarkable.

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago

Keeping score, accountability, truth………Ahh remember those days…………

Aden Wellsmith
Aden Wellsmith
3 years ago

However, with 160,000 infections a day currently in the UK and a fatality rate just below 1%, 1,400 deaths a day seems likely.
=======
Where the estimate for the 1% come from?

That’s the problem. You have two variables and one dodgy statistic, the death from covid number

Sarah Packman
Sarah Packman
3 years ago
Reply to  Aden Wellsmith

Exactly….Don’t get me started…1%? Not even close …..

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Packman

You should write to the Lancet, the BMJ, Imperial College as they are being denied your gifted expertise.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Aden Wellsmith

There are now multiple peer reviewed research papers suggesting that figure is in the right ballpark, for the UK. We have had about 80K covid deaths about about 16% of the population infected (that is a very liberal estimate and most studies put the figure at a much lower number).

The figure is much lower in developing countries due to different demographics and higher Vit D levels.

David Rooney
David Rooney
3 years ago

One of the most frustrating things about the reporting during this pandemic for me has been the over use of the word ‘expert’, this is especially in relation to the world of science.

I have always looked upon an ‘expert’ as someone who has a proven background of working in the field of their supposed expertise. However during the pandemic individuals are wheeled out to give an opinion and when you look into their background they are academically qualified to offer an opinion but have no direct hands-on experience in actually dealing with the subject matter which in my view makes them knowledgeable but not necessarily expert.

The various forms of media wheel out any given ‘expert’ who will offer an opposing opinion to that given by for example the government or SAGE which may be useful in determining effectiveness of actions but to call them an expert because they sit behind a desk reading up and theorising about a specific topic without any hands on experience in actually dealing with the subject or similar. All they are giving is their opinion, not expert opinion as we all know opinions are like noses most people have one.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  David Rooney

What makes Sage experts on viruses? Behavioral psychology maybe… the government too for that matter.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

SAGE is full of medical virologists and infectious disease experts. Do you really believe its not?

Chris Clark
Chris Clark
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Actually, sadly, SAGE is not full of virologists and infectious disease experts as was noted by The Guardian last April (easy to google the article)…to quote: they learned from the list of attendees at a crucial Sage meeting on 23
March, that the group includes 7 clinical
academics, 3 microbiologists, 7 modellers, 2 behavioural
scientists with backgrounds in disasters and terrorism, one geneticist,
one civil servant and 2 political advisers, one of which is the most
powerful prime ministerial lieutenant in recent memory. End quote.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Clark

SAGE lists 86 participants (not counting the associated groups like NERVTAG – which has 17 participants).
The participants are who you would expect – immunologists, microbiologists, epidemiologists, critical care, public health bods, renal physician, CMOs, and including yes … a respiratory virus specialist
The minutes of their meetings including who attended (apart from the minion civil servants) are all viewable online

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I think once the medical establishment began to entertain the notion that men can be women, trust for them among the electorate was lost.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I believe SAGE is corrupt. I am well aware that a big part of SAGE is behavioral psychology. They don’t hide that fact. https://assets.publishing.s

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

‘I believe’ is not an argument. It’s a cross functional team. It has virologists, immunologists, hospital consultants and economists among others.

What exactly do you have against behaviour psychologists?

David Morrey
David Morrey
3 years ago
Reply to  David Rooney

Totally agree. Not that it has made any difference to his God-like importance but it was entertaining to see Professor Ferguson squirm when asked if he had any medical training – he doesn’t, not even a Biology O level. Maybe that doesn’t matter as he is a data modeller, but maybe it does – I know lockdown sceptics have been harangued for not accurately forecasting a winter resurgence, but you could equally harangue the Ferguson / Imperial forecasts as they excluded any seasonal factors or variation. Dear Sage, if your expert is better than my expert, should he really have got that point so wrong?

Stephen Collins
Stephen Collins
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

It absolutely does, because it explains why the parameters he selected for insertion into his faulty model were themselves so ridiculous. Even if you believe the technical modelling was vaguely acceptable, if you make ludicrous assumptions (and I understand that he basically tore up the entire immunology and virology text book) about susceptibility then you end up with a ludicrous answer.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago

” … and I understand that he basically tore up the entire immunology and virology text book) about susceptibility …” – I guess you are referring to Gabrielle Gomes’s (a mathematician) competing Herd Immunity Threshold model. This has a scenario where lots of younger people in a population get Covid and have a robust immune response which lasts for at least a year thus achieving herd immunity at a relatively lower level – as low as 10%.

With the level of infection in the spring, free movement in the summer and plenty of transmission in the early autumn when schools and universities were open, it would appear that Dr Gome’s threshold has yet to be reached otherwise we wouldn’t have hospitals as busy as they are right now.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

Ferguson is an expert epidemiologist in infectious disease and Phd mathematician with several decades experience in modeling pandemics. If that is not an expert, what is. Your local GP?

Chris Witty and Valance are both medical doctors. I doubt you consider them experts either.

David Morrey
David Morrey
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Is that the ‘my experts are better than your experts’ argument? Professor Ferguson is a mathematician with a PhD in theoretical physics. I think we both agree. Just to take on example though Professor Gupta is a biologist with a PhD in the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases and whose laboratory was one of the first in the world to isolate the genome of Covid 19. Based on a simple review of credentials one would have to say Professor Gupta has a great deal more relevant expertise than Professor Ferguson, just like Professor Ferguson has more relevant expertise than my GP. Like all of these ‘listen to the experts’ arguments is it really the case that we have considered which experts are best qualified, or indeed most likely (based on their past performance) to be right? Or is it that we just homed in on the experts who were saying what we believed?

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

Science does not work like that. It works on peer review and publication. There is never a consensus. You can’t just say I have found one scientist who disagrees with everyone else but I believe they are right. The fact is Ferguson’s projections have been peer reviewed and published. Gupta has few if any such publications.

Furthermore Gupta’s projections have all been wrong. Ferguson has been in the right ball park.

David Morrey
David Morrey
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Sorry, this one isn’t up for debate – the model Ferguson uses to inform projections he supplies to the government has not been peer reviewed. He has not made it available to other scientists and has never disclosed his modelling assumptions. The criticisms of his model that make it into print are based on leaks (such as the suggestion that he assumed the same death rate in all age groups) or on the way reports submitted to Sage have been formatted (such as there being no seasonality in his projections). Most of what we know about the mechanics of his model has had to be drawn from leaked software code. He may be right (there would be a first time for everything) but to suggest he is the epitome of peer reviewed science on Covid is clearly rubbish.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

Ferguson’s Report 9 (freely available to view) states that they adapted their original influenza model that is published in excrutiating detail in Nature in 2006.

They detail in Report 9 the assumptions they used for their Covid model. They did NOT assume the same IFR for all age groups (see Table 1)

They used their original influenza model as the basis for their Covid scenarios because they didn’t have enough time to build a new model from scratch and anyway the only data they had at that point was what they knew from China.
The concerns about the code underpinning the modelling were addressed back in the spring when it was checked and run independently by a French computational biophysicist and was then cleaned up by RAMP in association with the Royal Society and teh IMperial team and then posted on GitHub for everyone to see.
Details of all this here :
“Critiqued Coronoavirus simulation gets thumbs up from code- checking efforts” Nature News June 8

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

You are Nuts!,Ferguson track record with CJD,Zika,SARS1, HS1N!, &SARS2 has been hopelessly wrong..97% of reported covid SARS2 deaths are with undiagnosed or Underlying Conditions, the Real Tsunami of Deaths will be Cancer,Heart,lung ,Blood Patients die before they can be treated or GP reopen..

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

It’s not even debatable! Anyone else with such a dire history of massive error would have been sent packing with his/her P45 ages ago….yet here he is all over the media again.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

You defy belief. Ferguson has been consistently wrong on everything he has touched. Your credulity in so-called experts like him shows no appreciation of track record or context. There are experts with excellent qualifications and track records who are being ignored or rubbished by people like you who have a singular, dogmatic point of view and a high sense of personal rectitude which borders on the tedious. It’s also noted that you crank up the level of insults or patronising comment when you can’t secure agreement with your own point of view.

Are you more qualified than the scientists who have a different view from the one being slavishly followed, the lack of success of which is increasingly apparent. Thought not.

Why not show some respect for other viewpoints?

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Hunter

You probably didn’t even know who Ferguson was or have any understanding of epidemiology until you read some badly researched ‘outrage’ piece on the internet. Then you decide that this one man is to blame for anything that has ever gone wrong in the world and must be ‘brought to justice’.

If you think that is how science works, it’s going to be difficult to convince you otherwise. You suffer from something called ‘confirmation bias’. You seem so far down the rabbit hole it’s unlikely anyone is going convince you.

However if you are open to genuinely being convinced that you are wrong about Ferguson, I am happy to debate you of the facts (not on your deranged personal hatred for man who you’ve never met or whose work you have never read)

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I rest my case. Ferguson has been around for a long time – as have I – and it appears I am far from the only person with an ability to put his abject shortcomings into perspective. Not the case for you it seems. How many past failures on his part does it take for you to overcome your very own deranged personal adulation of this utterly reckless charlatan?

And by the way, can you demonstrate that his “work” has been peer-reviewed or that he has shared his underlying assumptions? You’re going to struggle.

What entitles you to pronounce on how science works? What is your background, exactly? At the most basic level, science is about weighing empirical evidence and being open to all points of perspective but ultimately judging on the data and evidence available. You clearly have zero scientific background but have the abject cheek to suggest that I and others who follow a similarly sceptical approach are guilty of confirmation bias. You are so blind to other opinions or proper review of the data that a perverse sense of irony must be your only refuge.

You’ve suggested others take a rest. You’d do very well to heed your own counsel. In fact if you’re so unwilling to countenance debate or brook no opposition to your one-eyed views, I’d suggest you’re on the wrong forum.

Do you work for the government?

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Hunter

All of the claims about Ferguson that you have copied off Twitter have been debunked. The best summary is from the fact checking service below (you will need to google to get the full article).

As for Ferguson not being published, what a stupid thing to say. Do you even know how you become a Professor at a University?

A widely-shared claim on social media in Scotland and across the UK suggested that Professor Ferguson’s predictions about the number of deaths from Covid-19 were inaccurate, and he had vastly overestimated deaths from previous public health scares such as bird flu, BSE and foot and mouth disease. Similar claims also appeared in The Spectator and National Review.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: False
The image shared features a number of inaccuracies about Professor Neil Ferguson’s record. It incorrectly states he predicted 500,000 deaths from coronavirus, when in fact this was a projection if no action had been taken by the government to suppress the virus. The figures mentioned are upper limit projections and worst-case scenario plans, not predictions of deaths.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Who said Ferguson wasn’t published? I said he hasn’t been peer reviewed and that his very dangerous assumptions underlying his dangerous modelling haven’t been shared. Your confected outrage and rush to reassert your one-sided version of events is perhaps clouding your eyesight, if not your judgment.

Again, the rudeness surfaces. Your desperation to insist on your subjective views as unassailable and unquestionable make you ever more ridiculous.

What are your qualifications when it comes to science? You clearly know next to nothing about modelling and the inherent weaknesses regarding quality of assumptions. Likewise, can you tell us – based on Ferguson’s less than impressive history of forecasting – when he has been right in the past and why he should be trusted now?

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Hunter

Scientific papers are published after they are peer reviewed. So if Ferguson has publications, which you admit, they have been peer reviewed.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago

Not true.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Please find experts reviews of Fergusson’s model. It’s an embarrassment, its not merely bad it absolutely awful. It would fail peer review in every software house and any government department. A

In laymans terms its would be like reading an Phd submission written in crayon in a child like scrawl with and with a 5 year old’s grasp of grammar and spelling.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Amazing critique. Your Phd epidemiology students must fear your wrath.

from full fact (google this and you can read the full article)

A widely-shared claim on social media in Scotland and across the UK suggested that Professor Ferguson’s predictions about the number of deaths from Covid-19 were inaccurate, and he had vastly overestimated deaths from previous public health scares such as bird flu, BSE and foot and mouth disease. Similar claims also appeared in The Spectator and National Review.

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it False.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Ferguson was 10 fold off, his model and data were famously not peer reviewed.
When a highly edited and improved (by microsoft) version of his model was put online it was peer reviewed, it was deemed to:
Be bug ridden when run.
Unable to replicate any results.
Code that was genuinely laughably bad, 2000 line functions.
Breaking nearly all good practice.
Near zero automated testing.
It was basically a random number generator when it didn’t fall over. His teams arrogant replies around this showed their appalling lack of knowledge in creating good software.

So when even a part of his work has been peer reviewed it found to be so bad that its embarrassing.

His team have made dozens of prediction over the years, being merely 10x off is the highlight of his career. With swine flu they were nearer to a milion times off.

Gupta and others have been more optimistic and sadly wrong, maybe under estimating by 5 fold.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

No. See Nature News June 8 “Critiqued Coronoavirus simulation gets thumbs up from code- checking efforts”

If you bother to look at the tables in Report 9 with the death stats under different mitigation scenarios you will see that the estimates for death over 2 years are looking a bit optimistic compared with where we are now particularly since they assume an Rt of 2 or greater.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

It’s a superficially interesting article, unfortunately neither you nor the author have a clue about what they’re discussing.

Finding 1 obscure person to say its all good is laughable. Its not even close to correct. Real actual professionals condemned it when reviewing it because its awful and importantly untestable.

If you want a simple explanation it relies quite predictably on ‘random’, which is not uncommon. However it has no way of replaying or mocking out this randomness in testing. Not that it has any testing anyway.
Now replaying this randomness is not a great challenge to even a jnr level engineer, in fact the techniques used are key to starting good software development. Their code was so poorly structured that this was impossible. Their tech choice so old that it was more difficult. Their use of ‘goto’ laughable as it was condemned in 1970.

There is literally no way with the model as it stood it could reproduce any results – apart from maybe making a number > 1.

Respected engineers found it to be buggy and exhibit unintended random behaviour when for example loading files. This is dismissed as unimportant.

Look on the github.com reviews by professionals, academic code is a complete joke.

Its not uncommon for any of us to read something outside of our area of expertise and presume it’s correct. Funnily enough it was a woeful academic interview/article on software 7 years ago that finally stopped me reading New Scientist. All the articles on physics that I read may well have made an experienced physicist laugh etc.

In fact this is a key point to all media, when they report on something you genuinely understand you realise they have limited knowledge.

I don’t know your area of expertise, surely you get annoyed when it’s reported sp badly.

Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Ferguson’s model and the rationale behind it has not been made available. The peer review for the efficacy of PCR testing was completed in a day!! prior to WHO approving it. Significantly quicker than the norm. Fergusons track record in so many other areas that are widely know are laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

Ferguson’s model has been made available, including the code used to write the model. All of the assumptions and rationale were included in the published paper. Have you even bothered to read it? His team have also published about 10 paper since, further expanding on the original interview. He has also undertaken numerous interviews, including on unheard and on Parliamentary Select Committees. You just don’t want to hear the truth because you have emotionally invested in ‘Ferguson equals bad’

Jeffrey Chongsathien
Jeffrey Chongsathien
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

This is the level of ignorance we’re dealing with, people. Voicing support for an academic with a lifetime of abject professional failure but climbed the greasy pole in spite of it! Go smacking.

J J
J J
3 years ago

The level of ignorance we’re dealing with is people on the internet who’ve embraced the concept of ‘post-truth’. Where up is down and down is up.

Where professionally qualified experts with decades of experience are ‘idiots’ and some unqualified guy who didn’t even know what a pandemic was until March 2020 knows the ‘real truth’. And apparently the real truth is that the pandemic is a massive global conspiracy coordinated by Bill Gates and the ‘elites’ to undertake the ‘great reset’.

I will let people make up their own minds as to which category of people is correct.

Gerard A
Gerard A
3 years ago

Deaths in the first wave were down to 100 a day by June, and had almost disappeared by July. Therefore infections had all but disappeared some weeks earlier (down to 1 in 2000 by end of May according to the ONS). Keeping restrictions during late spring and summer and the associated scaremongering (positive framing as SAGE describe it), particularly over super spreading events
which simply “proved” when nothing happened that Covid 19 wasnt such a threat, is turning out to be one of the greatest public health disasters of all time.

My forecast is that no one in Government or SAGE will ever publicly admit that.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Gerard A

The conclusion should be the opposite. If we had kept some partial restrictions we could have prevented the second wave. It’s because we removed everything, sent the schools and universities back, that everything blew up again.

However it’s all academic. The new variant could not be controlled by anything other than a hard lockdown anyway

David Morrey
David Morrey
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

So it is your strong view that lockdown’s are an effective means of controlling Covid? That is based on (non-peer reviewed) modelling presumably, as the 25 or so peer reviewed comparative studies on lockdown restrictions and Covid mortality is yet to find much / any linkage. I know it is the done thing to call out critics of lockdown as anti-science, but actual (positive) measurable effects of lockdown versus no lockdown are hard to find in actual scientific literature.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

There are no peer reviewed studies on global pandemics full stop. Simply because there has not been one for 100 years. We don’t have that luxury unfortunately.

However it’s self evident that lockdowns reduce viral transmission and all of the data supports that (each lockdown in the UK and most other countries, including the current one, reduces infection rates, followed by hospitalizations and death rates).

Whether they are worth the cost is impossible to know at this point, but I suspect they are not. Although telling the people who would die without lockdown that ‘their life is a good price to pay for the people who may die in the future’ is problematic.

David Morrey
David Morrey
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

One thing we are not short of is peer reviewed studies on the efficacy of lockdowns (and other interventions). The 25 or so I reference are all using data on Covid. Have you not seen any of them? You say that it is self evident that lockdowns reduce viral transmission – that is true. However how significant that reduction is very much open to question. What various studies have tried to isolate is how big that reduction is. The answer appears to me that lockdowns are low down the list of factors that correlate to a lower fatality rate.

George Page
George Page
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morrey

Precisely. Furthermore, reducing viral transmission as a policy is short-sighted and overly simplistic. The long term strategy should be reducing fatality. Not on a daily basis, but on an annual or supra-annual basis. I feel this is exactly what the Great Barrington approach gets right.

George Page
George Page
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

“Although telling the people who would die without lockdown that ‘their life is a good price to pay for the people who may die in the future’ is problematic.”
I don’t see this as problematic at all. It is how we have lived life until 2020. This is the frame of mind of any noble person facing an existential threat to humanity. Additionally, the deaths are not inevitable. At risk persons can and should take precautions and also be protected. My opinion.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  George Page

I think it is problematic, judging by the majority of public opinion (85% support lockdown).

As for whether we should of just asked old people to hide away while the rest of kept things going. That may well turn out to of been the best approach. But we would’ve still seen massive hospitalisation and probably would of still needed lockdowns to prevent exceeding capacity. I am not convinced such lockdowns would of been much different to what we experienced.

People also forget most of the economic damage was baked in, lock down or no lock down (people would of stopped going out and international trade is compromised)

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

One should perhaps bear in mind that not all vulnerable people are over 80 as is becoming apparent with the age of patients being admitted to hospitals and critical care units now.
People under 59 who are in the extremely vulnerable group number 1,269,000. This does not include those with a BMI > 30, uncontrolled or un monitored diabetes, chronic liver disease, neurological diseases (all categories with a hazard ratio > 2 of dying from Covid)

worldsbestbrewer
worldsbestbrewer
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

What a load of rubbish. Can you se where lockdowns and masks were implelented on a death curve for the UK? If you can, you are doingbetter than anyone else, inc Carl Heneghan.

Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

There isn’t a single peer reviewed report suggesting lockdowns reduce fatalities. There are 22 suggesting they don’t.
This is widely accepted. It is probable they maximise eventual fatalities’ by reducing exposure and minimising immunity thereby attacking the vulnerable at a later date

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

No credible scientist argues lockdowns do not work. You reduce social contacts, you reduce transmission spread. It’s infectious diseases / epidemiology 101.

Whether lockdowns are worth the social / economic cost, or whether they work in the long term, is debatable. And that is what you and many others are confusingly referring to when they say ‘lockdowns don’t work’

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Really? Apart from South Africa, which has a new strain, every temperate country has exhibited seasonality. Given that all respiratory diseases tend to eb seasonal, I don’t think this is a coincidence. Check out Germany on Worldometers. How did they go from being perfect citizens to being disastrous? What moral sin of extra mixing incurred the wrath of the Covid Gods?

Lockdowns do have an effect. Check out the Zoe Covid statistics and you’ll see two lockdown kinks on the 22nd November and 9th of January. Cases fell faster and rose slower at those times. However the effect is small compared to the seasonal effect driving the vast majority of chaneg in transmission dynamics.

We can’t have a hard lockdown, because people have to eat. People need to buy food. The only way the government can make lockdown harder for me is to prevent me buying food. That is not a good idea.

Since cases will be low this Summer, until the South African strain arrives anyway, exams should be back on the cards, we can’t lockdown all year, or soon we won’t be able to afford medicines to treat anybody.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

South Africa is a new variant, not a strain. The same as the UK is a variant and not a strain. There are tens of thousands of variants of COVID19, but the SA and UK variants are the most signficant (in the sense they deviate more from the original virus and the changes seem to impact transmission).

I don’t deny there is seasonality. But to suggest that human social contact is not a more significant influencer is incorrect. It doesn’t matter what the season is, no social contact, no transmission. Indeed most theories on why we have seasonality believe it’s due to more social contact in confined spaces in winter than summer. Remember the infection rate began increasing in September, that was midsummer, not winter. It coincidence with schools and universities reopening. Coincidence?

ZOE is quite accurate (which I actually find surprising, but it seems to mirror the ONS infection survey, but provides results instantly rather than waiting two weeks).

I agree with you that we can’t have a hard lockdown. I don’t think we should continue with the current one much longer. Get the vaccine out as quickly as possible, then remove restrictions and hope for the best. I would focus on non economic impact restrictions only going forward. I would mandate testing and isolation (I would criminalise failure to comply). I would allow all businesses to operate as normal (but be COVID compliant). I would keep Universities distance learning only (where feasible) and work from home where possible. Unclear on schools. We shall need to keep beefing up hospital capacity.

Gerard A
Gerard A
3 years ago