Sunetra Gupta: have my Covid hypotheses held up?
My analysis was optimistic, but not outrageously so
It’s fair to say that my contact with the world of public media over the past eighteen months hasn’t been without incident. When I look back at the first interviews I gave on Covid-19, including to UnHerd in May 2020, it is plainly evident that I still had no idea how politicised and nasty this controversy would become — I was still happy to share early hypotheses, not realising that they would be systematically collected and deployed to try to destroy my professional credibility, including by people I had previously respected and admired.
From the Sunday Times to the Guardian, senior MPs to Owen Jones, commentators have been lining up for months to pour scorn on my analysis. Even Tom Chivers, the Science Editor of UnHerd, (to which I am grateful for giving me the space to respond), writing in the Times this past weekend, singled me as the example par excellence of a “wrong” scientist:
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But this is not the whole story. In the UnHerd interview which he is referring to, I had already discussed my paper of March 2020 which had hypothesised an Infection Fatality Rate, or IFR, in the UK in the region of 0.1%, and the interviewer Freddie Sayers then asked what I now believed it to be? “I think it would definitely be less that 1 in 1000 and probably closer to 1 in 10,000,” I replied, and then corrected myself within seconds: “probably not 1 but perhaps 5 in 10,000.”
Obviously, it was unwise to make such estimates in a media interview and I have since learned to be much more guarded. However, the figure itself is not quite as outrageous as the journalist evidently believes.
There has been a huge amount of confusion during this pandemic around terms such as “Infection Fatality Rate” and “Herd Immunity Threshold”, with journalists drawn to the simplified idea that you can determine these by simply adding up published totals since the start of the pandemic. In reality, both these numbers are constantly fluctuating, depending on the vulnerability of a particular population (age, changing levels of immunity) and the conditions at the time (season, behaviour).
If IFR is to mean anything it must be attached to a particular wave of an infection at a particular time in a particular population. In May 2020 in the UK, particularly in London and the South East, it was indeed probable, and in my opinion remains so today, that around half the population had been exposed to Sars-CoV-2 and the Herd Immunity Threshold had been reached for that environment, which is why deaths and infections were coming down so rapidly. In this scenario, around 35,000 deaths for around 35m people would have indicated an IFR of around 1 in 1,000.
If, as I suspected at the time, the official death figures were being over-counted by as much as 50%, that figure would reduce further to nearer 5 in 10,000, or 0.05%.
Looking back, I now think those estimates were somewhat overly optimistic, but not outrageously so. I still believe that the most plausible explanation for the turnaround in that first wave was immunity, and that a large portion of the population had been exposed to the virus by that point. The logic of a highly infectious respiratory virus arriving into a new population leads powerfully to that conclusion, and we know the pathogen was present in the UK at the latest in January and infecting people at will throughout February and into March.
Contrary to most journalists’ understanding, the relatively low levels of antibodies found in subsequent seroprevalence studies do not disprove this hypothesis. Firstly, we know it is possible to be infected without developing antibodies, and to fend off an infection through other arms of the immune system; second, it now appears that antibodies decay rapidly, meaning it is not a useful marker of exposure. Indeed, something I got very wrong was my presumption based on other coronaviruses that immunity would last at least for around 2 years; it now seems that for Covid-19, infection-blocking immunity, either from vaccination or natural infection, may only last for 3-6 months (although hopefully much more durably against severe disease and death). The combination of this and the changing season and behaviour affecting the HIT combined to allow a second wave to get going in the autumn of 2020 — as I predicted would happen at the time.
Looking back at that early interview, I would advise my younger self that not every question a journalist asks needs an answer in the form they want, and would have counselled a less headline-making response along the lines of “single figures for IFR are not helpful as it is entirely contingent on population and environment”. It wouldn’t have made such a good headline — although to be fair, the headline of the UnHerd article, “Covid-19 is on the way out”, is another thing that, while easy to lampoon, was perfectly true for the UK at the time.
Professor Gupta, thanks for your honesty and openness as always, and please be assured that there are very many of us out there who wish you well and are so grateful that you and your colleagues have stood your ground to offer balance to the debate in the face of the frequent bouts of hysteria and nastiness. We need more open calm discussion and debate and listening to each other.
Very nicely put, I absolutely second this
Agreed. It is extremely difficult today to have any scientific discussion without the superimposition of politics.
The effect of politics, mediocrity, cowardice and sheer immorality has been witnessed by many of us looking for robust science, healthy debate and frankly, people who are modest, brave and willing to put an ‘alternative’ view across.
“singled me as the example par excellence of a “wrong” scientist:”
What a knee biting worm – we liked your input, and to me it is all about Lockdown. I would love to hear your voice of reason on how the Lockdown – non-lockdown numbers are working out. C. is that most dangerous thing, someone armed with enough data and methodology to think they understand something, and then lectures others on it.
The brave who stand up to the masses, media miners, critics and peers of another opinion are worthy of my respect and admiration. Sunetra and her like minded colleagues should be honoured with respect. All experts involved in this pandemic have been proven wrong on specific issues, even those with the greatest competence in pandemic analysis and planning, eg. Johan Giesecke, who was subjected to a dreadful second interview by Freddie, asking the man of few words to elaborate on his experiences and wrong predictions. In an interview with NZ media in the spring of last year he asked them how they planned to exit the lockdowns. 15 months later they still have no idea and had the vaccines not appeared they would be up Sh** Cr**k, although they nevertheless are now. As for GBD which I believe is a reasonable alternative, no one has seriously conjectured as to how it could be implemented, but the basic strategy would have to involve drastic changes and measures to healthcare and elderly care, and not likewise for the majority of the general public. Such measures have never been considered.
I am fortunate to have lived through this in Sweden, the only country in Europe to have followed a reasonable path in pandemic management with sensible epidemiologists and a balanced strategy: no lockdowns, few face masks, no closed borders but a lot of focused restrictions and adaptations of daily life. Sweden is mid-table in Europe in terms of mortalities/capita. Had they not started with a totally run-down care home situation and an already strained healthcare system they would have been a lot further down the table.
As a former journalist, including in Africa and at times covering old and emergent diseases – AIDS, to Buruli and others – I’d agree that your future caution over talking to journalists in loose terms is well advised. Many have no scientific grounding whatsoever – making science communication critical — and some make a big display of what little they do have. This is partly because the emphases have shifted from reporting to looser journalism under pressure to provide heuristic analysis, meaning and ‘value-added’ – and now clickbait. Whether you are right or wrong is not my point, but you have been treated wrongly for sure and such trends in academia and the media add to restrictions on science and debate. It seems you were thrown under a bus by some who should know better, and now wish to be seen to be on the ‘right’ side
Journalism has also purposefully dropped objectivity. Journalism students are being taught that the mere reporting of facts is futile unless they serve to fit an activist agenda. I’ve observed the same phenomenon taking place in Law and Education.
That accelerated around 2000. Much of it revolves around debates standpoint of the observer and objective fact. In the social sciences some of this was overdue, but in hard sciences it has arguably gone too far. With social and natural sciences increasingly linked in policy and political arenas – necessarily in some cases – the risk is of perceptions hardening too quickly along ideological cleavage lines at the expense of nuance, consensus and programming. The problem then is claiming truth by force.
“At some point down the road ‘Lived’reality will prevail and this false/deceptive ‘Official’ reality will fade and collapse.”
Are you saying my ‘Lived Reality’ is some how not as good and legitimate as Real Reality? Because that makes you a racist homophobe Trans denining Neo-Na* i.
This is the fun of ‘critical Theory’ Dialectic, that reality only exists within language, and by talking of our experience, beliefs, feelings, we find actual truth (as nothing exists independent of our talk and feelings – no Morality, no right and wrong, no point to existence, nothing exists independent of Us, there is no ultimate…. except for what we believe.)
It is no surprise that Education has scrapped all objectivity and balance, but terrifying if this is true in Law, on which our liberties depend. Prof Gupta’s courage through all this has been an example to us all. Most of her critics are a disgrace to their respective professions.
Yes, law schools in the US are starting to focus more on social justice advocacy rather than pure law. There is even talk of dropping the bar exam as it has been deemed racist: https://www.californialawreview.org/abolish-the-bar-exam/
Unfortunately, I’m afraid it will lead to instances like this: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9671555/Oxfam-staff-training-document-blames-privileged-white-women.html
The Telegraph has also reported this story, but it is behind a pay-wall.
When my father became a journalist in 1948, there was no such thing as a ‘journalism student’. He walked out of the local Grammar School one day and onto the staff of the local paper the next, starting as a copyboy, attending court and council meetings with the Chief Reporter and running copy back to the office. At 90 he is still the most articulate and literate person I know. The local paper now struggles to differentiate between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ and has no concept of the correct use of the apostrophe.
Many thanks for your continued courage in offering other perspectives – perspectives which all followed logically from the original assumptions (such as exponential growth) that were used to justify lockdown; that’s the tragic irony of the criticism of them.
Regardless, trying to remind the terrified West and it’s media of the folly of their current obsession is a thankless task, but no less necessary for it, so thank you.
As for the Times and the rest of the MSM, I read a chilling editorial in the Times the other week where the editor complained about morality getting in the way of the governments coercing of the young to take vaccines! To dismiss morality like this (regardless of the issue) is obscene.
I mention it only to make the point that if even the oldest paper in the country has lost the plot, it’s maybe time to disregard their judgment entirely.
There are no ethics in Post-Modernism, and morality only where it is a useful tool of attaining the post-racial utopia, and that is the prevaliing philosophy of the Neo-Marxist Liberals who run everything now.
I tend to trust this professor; in part, because she appears to be so media naive. At the beginning of the epidemic, she seemed to claim then that lockdown would do no long-term good – and may do harm by slowing the build-up of “natural immunity” in the youngest two-thirds of the population. It seems to me that events have proved her correct. It would be very interesting to hear her views on these points and on the experience in Sweden where I believe, all-cause “excess deaths” are less than in the UK, while more people have been exposed to the virus.
Sweden seems to be largely unaffected by the dreaded “Delta” which is curious…. and nobody in the herd mentality group cares to ask about.
It’s coming in Sweden, from a low level. Sweden’s curve has tended to post-date those of other European countries, I don’t know why. I would expect Sweden to have the same kind of curve as the UK, quite steep in the next few weeks then levelling off, but very few mortalities. It’s almost at the level of common colds and mild flu. If people weren’t getting tested, it might not be apparent at all. Vaccination levels are pretty high and I believe even teenagers are being offered vaccinations now.
Personally I think Professors Gupta, Battacharrya and Kulldorf have been a voice of reason during this whole pandemic. Some of their predictions/forecasts may have been a little off, but way less off than the hysterical forecasts coming out of Imperial College and the Ferguson group.
What is evident is that continual hysteria and fear mongering by public officials both in the UK and US is a result of huge conflicts of interest. As an example, in the US, the NIH and Fauci have a very depp apparent (or real) conflict of interest because of their tight association with Moderna and the mRNA vaccine (which has resulted in shielding and denial of any untoward effects), as well as with Gilead and remdesvirir (where they hyped remdesivir which in fact turns out to be worse than hydroxychloroquine in that it has almost zero effect). Yet these public health officials have gained enormously by perpetuating fear in that their budgets have been massively increased.
I think in future better crisis management would have employed a red team/blue team approach and presented both sides (or every side) of the issue completely honestly, thereby allowing the puiblic (who are generally far smarter in terms of street smarts and common sense than the elites give them credit for) to make up their own minds and adjust their behaviors accordingly.
BioNTech and Moderna stock closed up roughly 15 percent today. LOL. In one day! It was roughly $20 a share in late 2019. It is $450 now. Bill Gates, Blackrock, Ballie Gifford just killing it. I’d love to see the portfolios of the politicians spouses. Especially the ones who have investment bankers for husbands. Looking at you Feinstein and Pelosi. You great “liberal” progressives.
I listened to the Unherd interview way back when. It was the first time I have ever heard of you. I felt what you presented was sane, scientific, and not dressed up for public consumption. Full respect whcih has only grown over time. You were all learning at the time and you did a pretty good job, based on your expertise and what data were available. No one could ask for more. As for Chivers. He has his angle and is rarely worth much time imo and he just shows himself up as a worthless piece of toe rag for his comments. He loses by it, believe me. Why do the likes of ferguson not get called out for their ridiculous mystic meg style modelling-based predictions? Shameful.
I saw Prof Gupta on a Channel 4 interview with Sir Paul Nurse and others which was on 22 April 2020, and she stood out for her balanced views. She is just one of many who suffer by speaking out about established thinking and credit to her for not giving into the bullies.
Prof Gupta, I admire the courage that you and your colleagues have shown being “orthogonal to the orthodoxy”, while lamenting that is has needed so much resilience to speak out against the prevailing narrative.
Professor, the media response to you says more about them than you.
Personally, I thank you for sticking your neck out when so many other ‘experts’ ducked.
Keep talking, many of us want to hear different opinions
Scientists state “in the massively unlikely event of a comet hitting the Earth in the next week it is mathematically possible that all life could be wiped out.” Headline in media reads “Life on Earth may end tomorrow, say scientists”. I’m afraid the good professor should have taken a media communications course before speaking with a journalist. There’s a reason why politicians are trained to ALWAYS treat any microphone as live, whether the red light is on or off.
Not a very good comparison. Prof. Gupta stated that Britain had most likely achieved herd immunity and was (and is!) happy to concur that ‘COVID was on its way out’. The only way to understand those statements is that she was saying that the COVID problem was over. It was not. Just how much does it take to falsify her original statement?
I wonder how forecasts would have changed if people had known that they were (probably) dealing with a gain of function virus.
Probably not much. The virus is what it is, and hte sequence was known to all. I do not think that anyone is capable of engineering a virus to do a particular pandemic. Or that the Chinese had any reason to *want* to make a pandemic – sa opposed to making general research and being too sloppy about taking risks.
But it was tinkered with to make it more effective ie gain of function. The end game might not have been a deliberate pandemic, but the end game sure was a more deadly virus.
The vaccine is a “gain of function” experiment. That is why it isn’t ending. That is what leaky vaccines do.
It appears that the reason why Covid will not die out is because of the vaccines. The low level of dosage may keep us from getting very ill & dying but it will allow the virus to simmer along in the population slowly ….till it mutates again.
So do you think that we were wrong to vaccinate against smallpox, polio etc. because that made those diseases more dangerous and widespread???
which was surely intended to stay safely inside its lab. Gain-of-function research sounds like a relly bad idea by now, but since nobody ia able to tailor a virus to a particular behaviour, knowing abot teh virus origins does not tell us anything about its behaviour that we could not see from the sequence.
“Responsible Journalism” is proving to be a true Oxymoron
At least half us don’t think very much of Tom Chivers. He isn’t a serious thinker.
he is someone who likes to use modeling to prove his current bias
Thank you for being you. Whether you are right or wrong, I care less than that we are actually discussing and debating openly so that we might arrive at informed perspectives from which we can act appropriately.
Professor Gupta, I applaud you. A voice of calm and reason in an attention-seeking media hype environment. Honesty and integrity shines through what you say and what you do. I know that you are not alone in this, but admire your COURAGE for standing with your head above the parapet. Keep going. You have a great deal of support from forums such as this, and elsewhere. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Tom Chivers is a joke. Government data is garbage.
Tom Chivers as a science journalist is an oxymoron.
The number of people capable of understanding the false premises of Governments and Medias’ campaign of terror is way higher than the number capable of resisting such psychological warfare. I think the considered views held by Prof Gupta will become the accepted view amongst most of us once we get a bit of hindsight. Its often the way with complex shifts in social knowledge and belief. Sadly Prof Gupta and the other Great Barrington authors are the messengers who got shot, though the message itself got through in places and seems to be spreading. Not least because the govt and media lies are so inchoate and risibly untestable most 11 years olds can see they are fake.
A shining star over the past two years thank you
“Professor Sunetra Gupta, the Oxford epidemiologist, said in May 2020 that the coronavirus might kill one person in every 10,000 it infected. Since 36,000 people had died in the UK when she made that claim, that would have implied that 360 million British people — five times as many as exist — had had the disease”
Interesting. Given Prof. Gupta’s further comments regarding this, I’m intrigued by Mr. Chivers being conferred the Royal Statistical Society’s Statistical Excellence in Journalism award. His above comment proves that he can multiply by powers of ten.
Dear Prof. Gupta,
I can’t say I paid close attention to your views at the beginning of the pandemic, mainly because it seemed to me they were being over-used by lockdown sceptics to justify their unrealistic certainty about the nature of the novel phenomenon that COVID-19 still is.
Nevertheless, if recent circumstances have taught us anything I trust it is that too much scientific consent about the nature of a novel phenomenon early in its emergence should be treated with scepticism — and even suspicion.
For me, a wrong scientist is not the same as an incompetent or a dishonest one, and I have never regarded you as either; your academic credentials attest to this!
(Now that climate change is seeking to knock COVID-19 from the top of our screens I think everyone needs to reflect on this. Though I am with the current consensus that CC is an androgenic phenomenon, I keep a corner of the mind ready for the possibility that the consensus is flawed — possibly fatally so. Should that ever prove the case, the scientists who admit it the soonest are those who have integrity. But I suppose many of them will not be around when confirmation either way comes through as it ineluctably must.)
Chivers. He should be got rid of. Cast overboard…thrown out of the balloon casket. He lowers the tone.
An embarassment to the intellectually rigourous of Unherd, but an exemplar of fame seeking, loquacious ambition .
So, Prof. Gupta, are you still saying that in March/April 2020 the UK was close to herd immunity and COVID was on the way out? If so, could you explain how that squares with the large number of cases and fatalities we have seen since then? Or are you just saying that this is what you scientific intuition suggested, and given the large uncertainties of the time, that guess was as plausible as anything else? If so, do you not think you should pay rather more attention to the uncertainties in the available knowledge, before you intervene in a life-and-death matter of health poiicy?
My take on the lockdowns was they delayed COVID dissipation and contributed to new mutated variants. Much like painting over a mouldy wall, the mould might appear to have vanished, but it’s still there, lurking and breeding.
That is not how mutations work. The more disease there is, the more mutations you get – same probability every time a virus reproduces. You do not get more mutations if you spread the disease over a longer time. You only get more mutations if you have more total disease – and you are surely not claiming that lockdown and other precautions *increase* the total amount of disease. Are you?
That is not how mutations work, but it may be how selection works. Just having lots of ‘stuff’ to mutate doesn’t mean those mutations will bring about a significant change unless there is selection pressure – such as the favouring of vaccine resistant mutations or mutations transmissible enough to thrive in spite of lockdown/limited interaction amongst potential hosts.
I’m no evolutionary biologist, but Earth was teeming with simple organisms that remained ‘unchanged’ for geological time spans before the pre Cambrian life explosion.
It’s not ridiculous to say mutations can occur because of what we do externally to change the environment they propagate in.
There is selection, yes. Which does make it all more complex. But I find it hard to imagine a change that increases transmission when there are few contacts, but does not also increase transmission when there are many contacts. So hard, in fact, that I would prefer to see a specific mechanism and some evidence for it before I gave it serious consideration.
Yes I see your point. It is something that’s destined to remain hypothetical because we have never vaccinated an entire population during a novel pandemic and certainly never used Lockdowns, so we simply don’t know how a virus change in that environment.
As we were warned some months ago by various virologists to much ridicule and scoffing by mainstream ‘experts’ who have so very often proven to be mediocre, cowardly and compromised – and frankly, immoral. Now of course we are all familiar with the term ‘immune escape’.
The headline is all you need to read: “Understanding COVID-19 and Seasonal Influenza as Quasispecies Mutant Swarms Reveals the Quantum Origins and Cryptic Fates of Human Pandemics.” You do not even need to read into the abstract where is talks about “the largest and most coordinated cover-up in world history [involving] both the pharmaceutical and defense entities”. This reads as sensationalist conspiracy-theory rubbish, and I shall ignore it. If there is anything to any of this (whatever it is), presumably there will be a future presentation by someone who can at least pretend to be serious.
What will exponentially increase vaccine resistant mutations is when millions of people with mRNA vaccines which target Just One protein are getting the virus!
The mRNA and mDNA vaccines are ultra fine targeted on one viral thing, spike protein, and so a mutation to work around that must evolve as millions of vaccinated have a Billion covid viruses each!
At least natural immunity should be broad spectrum. I would think it possible the vaccines produce a worst situation from this. I have my tubes of horse ivermectin in my bathroom medicine cabinet.
Herd immunity for the original variant with R=2.5, was around 60%. Subsequent waves were due to the Kent variant, with R around 4 and the delta, with R around 6. Covid could have been on the out at the end of 2020, ignoring the possiblity of mutations.
Not sure how reliable those R values really are. For example, if a particular strain is less lethal or has less severe effects such that the number with low level symptoms increases, then no doubt the infectivity rate will go up. I surmise that as people with say cold-like symptoms may not consider that they have COVID, and hence are out and about on their usual business and therefore free to infect others. So in the scenario the apparent increase in R value is not so much due to increased transmissibility of the virus itself but rather as consequence of the decrease in the resulting morbidity. Not sure how the authorities/public health officials can distinguish between these two possibilities. But was is evident is that the daily deaths/million curve in the UK right now only experienced a small blip increase, while the daily cases/million curve spiked to a peak level almost as high as in the winter. In other words, the delta/Indian variant is clearly less lethal than preceding variants or the original strain. Or alternatively there is a good deal more immunity to the delta variant in the community as a consequence of prior exposure to previous variants.
Maybe more likely that the delta strain is at least as lethal, but that the very high vaccination rate, particularly among the older and more vulnerable, keeps the consequences down. But I quite agree that the R values depend on how people behave, not only on the characteristics of the virus.
Not really. All the data suggest that the delta variant is a lot less lethal than the original, and recall that even the original was not particularly lethal in any body under the age of 65.
The evidence is clear from countries such as India where vaccination rates are still low: huge number of cases associated with delta but relatively few deaths.
The actual impact of the current vaccines at this juncture is highly speculative. Suffice it to say that a majority of people hospitalized with COVID (i.e. severe impact) in Israel are double vaccinated. Now of course, since the country is highly vaccinated, the percentage of vaccinated individuals who are infected with COVID will increase but still. Moreover, the number of reinfections in those who have survived COVID is tiny worldwide, while the number of breakthrough infections, especially including those with severe outcomes, following double vaccination is not insignificant.
At this point it would be best if people stopped overhyping the vaccines and presented the data accurately and most importantly completely honestly and above board, including the significant and sizable side effects. While I myself was doubly vaccinated in March with the Pfizer vaccine and only experienced a minimal sore arm for a few hours, I would not be willing at this stage, given what is currently known, to chance a booster shot.
It would certainly be good news if the delta variant was much less dangerous. Unfortunately, you present a picture of the world that I do not at all recognise. If ‘all the data suggest’ such and such, could you give some links to where that is shown – preferably by someone who is not a card-carrying anti-lockdowner??
True – COVID could have been done at the end of 2020 *if* there had been no mutations. Or just possibly, as I think Prof. Gupta is saying, COVID could have been done in the summer of 2020 *if* immunity had lasted longer. (Much like the Swedish strategy would have been perfect, *if* COVID had behaved more like Influenza). As scientific speculation about the most plausible values of certain sceintific parameters and how you would predict the future course of a pandemicl under those parameters it is still possible, just about, that she could be proved right.
But she was *not* discussing the obscure parameters of disease models with her peers. What the public took away from her statements – obviously and predictably – was that that the COVID epidemic had run its course and there was no reason to take any annoying precautions because the problem had solved itself. And that has proved to be wrong. Very wrong.
She comes across like a volcanologist who says that ‘the eruption is over’. If people then move back to the volcano and the lave just keeps flowing, it is no good to say “Ah, but I meant that the magma store was depleted and it was going to stop, and it was! I never said that there wasn’t another magma store, or that it wouldn’t start up again soon after!”
before you intervene in a life-and-death matter of health poiicy
What intervention was this?
The posing of difficult questions lies at the heart of science. Still can’t get my head around how humanity became so dependent on the most pessimistic answers and most cautious responses, no matter the repercussions nor the terrifying imbalance of cost/benefit.
I’d say that in science in general people form a quick judgement partly on data and partly on intuition or prior bias – or just because they get an idea and run with it. Others have different biases and opposite ideas. Given enough time and experiments it eventually shakes out, and everybody bar a few desperate hopefuls settle on a majority view. Most of the time that is perfectly fine. But when you have problems that are not well understood and require an immediate answer – like COVID or global warming – you cannot wait for the 30 years it might take to achieve certainty. Here you need to consider several alternative scenarios in parallel, with rough probabilities attached, and weigh the likelihoods and the consequences together. Scientists collectively then have the job of giving a fair estimate of possibilities and likelihoods, but we are probably not the best to take decisions, because we are too attached to certainty. Meanwhile everybody needs to consider explicitly the possibility that they might be wrong. It becomes irresponsible to back your intuition to the hilt, the way you might normally do, because it makes it harder to get to some kind of consensus evaluation, and offers ammunition to all those who prefer to ignore the science and just do what they feel best about.
To get a bit more specific: Gupta was perfectly entitled to believe that COVID was not much of a problem or that nothing we could do would change the number of deaths (even though I doubt she was right – and how could she know?) But given the consequences – in terms of political decisions and number of COVID deaths – a fair presentation would be to say that we knew very little, that her view would fit the data and was backed by her intuition, but that there was still, sure,a 30% probability that Ferguson was right and she was wrong. Alternatively, if she leaves off the cautions and gives the world to understand that COVID is no longer going to be a problem, she cannot complain about the reaction if it turns out that COVID does not disappear after all.
It would be great if death disappeared completely. But it will not. The longer this period of not being able to live fully goes on, so do we all get closer to death. With or without Covid. A life of fear is not life.
I recommend that people who wish to stay at home and stay “safe” do so. Let everyone else live and take their chances if they wish to do so as well.
I agree. And what Gupta is discussing in the interview is what she said in March to May 2020 – before she thinks she became media savvy.
The Great Barrington Declaration, however, was in October 2020 and surrounded by much very knowing media management – she was certainly aware of the impact of her words by then: ‘Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal’.
That was just as the second wave that she claims to have predicted (what she actually said was there was likely to be an increase of cases in the Winter Months) was getting going and that claimed a bigger share of the 4.3 million plus deaths that have occurred so far than had occurred before her statement.
It’s really not good enough to say that she still believes her claim that half the population in London and South East were ‘exposed’ by May 2020 and that was enough to represent herd immunity without saying exactly what she means. To use the excuse that there’s no reliable evidence to say it wasn’t the case is particularly evasive.
Gupta complains about the poor quality of science reporting – here she had an unfiltered opportunity to explain herself – and she failed.
She also said that it would return in tbe autumn / winter…no?
In May she said she expected a resurgence of cases in the winter months. In October she called for an end to measures to restrict transmission. Confused thinking, at best.
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