by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 28
August 2020

Prof Michael Levitt: here’s what I got wrong

by Freddie Sayers

Professor Michael Levitt, Nobel Prize winner and Professor of Structural Biology at Stanford, was one of our early interviews during the lockdown era. Partly due to that interview, which has been watched over 750,000 times on YouTube, he became one of the best known dissenting scientists, arguing that the trends of Covid-19 were revealed in the numbers, and that they were much less scary than most people thought.

At the end of July, he made a prediction that Covid-19 would be “done” by August 25th. It was shared across Twitter. He agreed, back then, to come in to our new studio once the date had elapsed, to see how his prediction fared…

On his prediction:

“The prediction has fared less well than I hoped…There are 55,000 deaths in the USA every week approximately and right now it’s about 5,000 over that. So I think the details of that prediction have fared less well than I hope but it served as a milestone and what we mean by ‘over’. It highlighted the importance of looking at excess deaths, when it’s over, and the prediction. My mistake was that I should have done a range instead of a number.”

On his earlier Israel prediction

“The problem was that I should have said excess deaths. There was a time when Israel had no deaths and the number of cases were about 150, but I was certainly wrong about that… When I researched it, I found a really big surprise: when you compare 2020 to 2019, there are actually a few hundred fewer excess deaths in 2020 compared to 2019, so I should have said excess deaths weren’t 10 but minus 100! If you did the exact same comparison not to 2019 but to 2018 or 2017, you find that there was quite significant excess deaths in Israel by about 1000 in the rough period of coronavirus. If you try to track it against the deaths, it doesn’t track — it’s a much broader peak. Perhaps something else happened then ”

On testing 

“At some point we are going to get tired of testing. It’s a huge waste of money, which could much better go to helping people who have lost their jobs and homeless people. It’s great for the pharmaceutical companies selling test kits but it’s not doing anything good.”

On why flu is more scary than Covid

“Flu is much more devious than coronavirus…Flus cannot be easily tamed. They’re much too mutatable — coronaviruses by their nature are staid and have a relatively large genome, which is three times larger than the flu. It’s a single piece whereas flu’s genome is seven little pieces so it can swap pieces with other flus. It causes massive excess deaths year after year. I don’t think coronavirus where will be a winter wave of any substance.

On returning to normality

“Lack of normality is a terrible risk. We’ve torn the fabric of society and I would not be surprised if the risk of tearing society apart constitutes a 10 times higher excess death risk. People die from poverty, desperation and alcoholism. If we look at the statistics on alcohol consumption over the past month and we could easily see excess deaths. A strong smoker loses 10 years of life, which is 120 times higher risk. An alcoholic might lose four to five years of life from this compared to coronavirus.”

On lockdown 

“It was probably wrong of me to say that lockdown was a mistake. If people have done it, they should be told that it was probably a good idea when they did it, but it’s no longer necessary and there’s nothing left to be frightened of. The damage caused by lockdown is something we will suffer but there’s no point in dwelling on it. Going forward we need to basically do whatever we can to get back to normal like schools starting or museums opening. 

“Panic shortens your life”

Back in March my main aim was to stop the panic. Panic is dangerous and it shortens your life probably more than by a month so we need to think about that. What’s important is the values of our society. I asked in an earlier blog post: what can we do to stop this voluntary suicide of western civilisation. This is the choice that’s facing us: with ZeroCovid, you can pretty much guarantee that the demise of western civilisation will be greatly accelerated.


  • September 16, 2020
    Perhaps the best video on Covid to watch at the moment is - What Levitt may have missed in the USA is the fact that the south had yet to go through its covid wave because of its pronounced climatic differences. It is following the same shallow curve... Read more

  • September 3, 2020
    You have brought up an excellent point that tends to be passed over in discussions centered on covid: the critical role that fear of airborne transmission of the virus has played in determining the public's willingness to engage in a large variety of activities fundamental to a return to even... Read more

  • September 3, 2020
    Spot on. I will provide another salient example: the question of school reopenings. Here in the US, back in April-May, there seemed to be a consensus within the States, and in my especially progressive-minded town, in particular, that bringing children back to school in the Fall was of paramount... Read more

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