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News

SAGE was put on a pedestal… but their models clearly didn’t reflect reality – Daily Mail

  • SAGE admitted early virus modelling based on figures from online encyclopedia
  • Committee of scientists advising PM also had no expert on human coronavirus 
  • Dubious data formed the basis for the group’s calls for first national lockdown
  • Experts predicted that the peak would be in June – but it actually came in April  
  • Impact of care home staff spreading Covid by working in multiple sites not considered
  • Scientists failed to consider the impact agency workers would have on spreading Covid in care homes by moving between several different sites to work
  • There were more than 30,000 excess deaths in care homes because of Covid in 2020

Professor Mark Jit, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and member of SPI-M, said the group used data from Wikipedia in the UK along with hospitalisations in China and Northern Italy to inform their modelling. 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8961245/SAGE-used-dodgy-data-WIKIPEDIA-model-Covid-crisis-spring-BBC-documentary-reveals.html

Categories
Opinion

Official data is ‘exaggerating’ the risk of Covid and talk of a second wave is ‘misleading’, 500 academics tell Boris Johnson in open letter attacking lockdown – Daily Mail

Official data is ‘exaggerating’ the risk of Covid-19 and talk of a second wave is ‘misleading’, nearly 500 academics told Boris Johnson in open letter attacking lockdown.

The doctors and scientists said the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has become ‘disproportionate’ and that mass testing has distorted the risk of the virus.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8925427/Official-data-exaggerating-risk-Covid-500-academics-tell-Boris-Johnson.html

Categories
Opinion

The Covid Physician’s true coronavirus timeline – The Critic

Our mission: save the NHS by neglecting ourselves and the NHS. I received numerous CCG advice and flow-charts on the coronavirus-centric mass processing of patients. Most of it was about whom not to see, and who could pass the pearly gates of the hospitals. Then there was the advice on the parallel IT and video-consultation medical industrial revolution: our new NHS normal.

…For clarity, the “D” in coronavirus means “disease”, the second “S” in SARS-CoV-2 means “syndrome”. In a sense, the WHO had already decided Covid-19 was a distinct disease entity caused by a novel coronavirus before characterising it as a syndrome called SARS-2, and before the naming of the virus as SARS-CoV-2. The importance of scientific syntax and semantics cannot be overemphasised. Such cognitive slip-ups trickle unnoticed into general parlance and may have fatal consequences for us as a species.

Without a definite cause, one cannot definitively conclude to treat anything in particular. Is Covid-19 a syndrome, a mixed bag of symptoms and signs that has been negligently and politically globally fast-tracked to a scientifically wrong conclusion? Is it, in practice, a conflation of different, distinct disease entities including influenzae, rhinoviruses, pneumoniae and other coronaviruses, not to mention other non-infectious phenomena?

https://thecritic.co.uk/the-covid-physicians-true-coronavirus-timeline/

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News

Covid cases are not spiralling out of control, says King’s College – The Telegraph

Covid-19 rates are not surging, researchers at King’s College have said after results from its symptom tracker app showed a far less deadly virus trajectory than Imperial College findings.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/10/30/covid-19-rates-not-surging-reveals-kings-college-research/

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Opinion

Is Moonshot testing a waste of money? – UnHerd

Recently, the Government agreed a £161 million deal with a British company called DnaNudge to provide 5.8 million Covid tests, as part of its “Moonshot” programme for mass testing of the population at the point of care. The CovidNudge test is “a rapid, accurate, portable and lab-free RT-PCR test that delivers results at the point of need and in just over an hour”, according to DnaNudge’s own promotional material. DnaNudge is a spinoff company of Imperial College London.

https://unherd.com/2020/10/is-moonshot-testing-a-waste-of-money/

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News

Herd immunity could have saved more lives than lockdown, study suggests – The Telegraph

Researchers from Edinburgh University reassessed Imperial modelling that showed half a million people would die.

Blanket social distancing and the closure of schools may have cost more lives than if herd immunity had been allowed to build slowly in the community, a study suggests.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/10/07/herd-immunity-could-have-saved-lives-lockdown-study-suggests/

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News

The 1% blunder: How a simple but fatal math mistake by US Covid-19 experts caused the world to panic and order lockdowns – Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, RT

But where did this one percent figure come from? You may find this hard to believe, but this figure emerged by mistake. A pretty major thing to make a mistake about, but that’s what happened.

In order to understand what happened, you have to understand the difference between two medical terms that sound the same – but are completely different. [IFR and CFR.]

CFR will always be far higher than the IFR. With influenza, the CFR is around ten times as high as the IFR. Covid seems to have a similar proportion.

Now, clearly, you do not want to get these figures mixed up. By doing so you would either wildly overestimate, or wildly underestimate, the impact of Covid. But mix these figures up, they did.

…we’ve had all the deaths we were ever going to get. And which also means that lockdown achieved, almost precisely nothing with regard to Covid. No deaths were prevented.

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/500000-covid19-math-mistake-panic/

Categories
Opinion

Half a million Covid deaths was ABSURD we are being DUPED, says RICHARD MADELEY – The Express

We have consistently (and I’d say flagrantly) over-estimated the threat of Covid-19, starting with the absurd prediction of 500,000 deaths by Imperial College London’s Professor Neil Ferguson. Data experts who later reviewed the computer code used in the professor’s model described it as “a mess which would get you fired in private industry”…

The trashing of the economy, the worst recession in our history, avoidable deaths at home with people too frightened to go to hospital for fear of catching the virus, chaos in education, the explosion in domestic violence, steep rises in anxiety, depression, and heavy drinking?

No. Lockdown will come to be seen as one of the most catastrophic misjudgments a British government has ever made.

https://www.express.co.uk/comment/columnists/richard-and-judy/1323175/coronavirus-lockdown-figures-covid-19-death-toll

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News

We are massively overreacting to new Covid ‘outbreaks’ – The Telegraph

The Imperial College study published this morning claiming that 3.4 million people ( six per cent of the UK population) have antibodies indicating that they have been exposed to Covid-19 provides no great revelation. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has already published similar figures suggesting that 6.5 per cent of the population has been infected. Nevertheless, it is yet more confirmation of how irrelevant are the official statistics for Covid 19 cases – and what a nonsense it is to rely on them for policymaking.

According to the Government’s Covid “dashboard”, updated at 4pm on Wednesday, 313,798 people in Britain have had the disease. This is less than one tenth of the number suggested by the Imperial study. In other words, for all Matt Hancock’s efforts to ramp up testing, the vast majority of cases have not been detected.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/08/13/massively-overreacting-new-covid-outbreaks/

Categories
Opinion

Viral second wave fear will drive us into another lockdown – The Telegraph

But with no sign of a second summer wave nor an autumn eruption reminiscent of 1918, the commentariat has amended the definition. Suddenly, a “second wave” meant Covid’s seasonal return, in winter, a year on. Widespread adoption of a new phrase in the Covid lexicology – “winter wave” – has academically formalised the idea.

But instead of looking us square in the eye, the Tories have chosen Big Brother’s panopticon; No 10’s new Joint Biosecurity Centre, which will drive “whack-a-mole” local lockdowns, is slickness posing as strategy – and, as it happens, reporting into track-and-trace app failure Dido Harding. When the public twigs that the infection is unlikely to be controlled in this way, the sheer panic could send us back into national lockdown. Three scenarios might help avoid the latter: a vaccine comes along; the Government gets its act together with a plan to protect the vulnerable; or we put in place safety valves against mass hysteria.

Imperial College’s research needs to be particularly scrutinised, as its international influence grows. Dr Seth Flaxman – the first author in the paper that notoriously claimed lockdowns may have prevented over 3 million deaths in Europe – this week won fresh funding to model the pandemic across several countries.

Revelations that disrupt the narrative also need to find a stronger voice: within 24 hours, the scandal of PHE’s inflated daily death figures was running out of mileage. This week’s London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine modelling on the impact of the pandemic on cancer deaths never gathered steam. So too a paper by Oxford’s Prof Sunetra Gupta, which elegantly combined those uneasy epidemiological bedfellows – theory and evidence – to find some parts of the UK may already have reached herd immunity.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/07/23/viral-second-wave-fear-will-drive-us-another-lockdown/

Categories
Opinion

This is what we amputated a limb for – Hector Drummond, The Critic

In reality many of the people who died from Covid-19 were likely to die this year anyway, so in one respect this estimate is likely to be too high. In another respect it’s likely to be too low, as it will not include ‘lockdown deaths’, that is, the deaths from delayed cancer and heart treatments, and so on, but as I was interested in the effect of Covid-19 I didn’t want those in my graph anyway. (Another complication is that not everyone who is classed as a Covid-19 death actually died from it, but I decided to ignore this.)

The five year average for 2015-19 is 531,355 deaths per year. As of writing this there were 42,462 Covid-19 deaths in the UK. There are likely to be a few more deaths in the next few weeks, but not many more, as the disease is (barring an unlikely second wave in winter), on its way out. Besides, the number we are adding on here is for the whole of the UK, not just England and Wales, so if anything this number is inflated. That gives us 573,817 deaths for 2020. Then I got hold of the historical population figures for England and Wales, and calculated the death rates per 1000 from it, so that population increases are taken account of. Here is the result:

https://thecritic.co.uk/this-is-what-we-amputated-a-limb-for/

Categories
Opinion

‘The lockdown is causing so many deaths’ – Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, Spiked

Lockdown deaths:

The really concerning thing is that if all the deaths taking place during lockdown are put down as Covid-19 deaths, we are going to miss the fact that the lockdown policies have caused an increase in deaths from many other things. There has been a 50 per cent reduction in people turning up to A&E. It is clear that people just do not want to bother the doctors. And a number of these people will be dying. If we muddle the Covid-19 statistics in with the other statistics, we might think the lockdown has prevented a certain number of deaths, when it has actually caused a large number of deaths.

NHS capacity:

You hear this idea that all NHS staff have been working 20 times as hard as they have ever done. This is complete nonsense. An awful lot of people have been standing around wondering what the hell to do with themselves. A&E has never been so quiet.

The chances of children dying from COVID-19:

How many people aged 15 or under have died of Covid-19? Four. The chance of dying from a lightning strike is one in 700,000. The chance of dying of Covid-19 in that age group is one in 3.5million. And we locked them all down. Even among the 15- to 44-year-olds, the death rate is very low and the vast majority of deaths have been people who had significant underlying health conditions. We locked them down as well. We locked down the population that had virtually zero risk of getting any serious problems from the disease, and then spread it wildly among the highly vulnerable age group.

On vaccines:

It is not clear that getting the virus actually makes you immune to it in the future, and it is not clear a vaccine would either.

https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/06/26/the-lockdown-is-causing-so-many-deaths/

Categories
Publications

What Went Wrong Corona and the World after the Full Stop – Dr. Carlo Caduff, King’s College of London

The failure to take into account the impact of extreme measures that have become the norm inmany places in the Covid-19 pandemic has been stunning. The destruction of lives and livelihoods in the name of survival will haunt us for decades.

Today’s fear is fueled by four main forces:
1. Mathematical disease modelling – a flexible and highly adaptable tool for prediction, mixing calculations with speculations, often based on
codes that are kept secret and assumptions that are difficult to scrutinize from the outside.
2. Neoliberal policies –systematic disinvestments in public health and medical care that have created fragile systems unable to cope with the crisis.
3. Nervous media reporting – an endless stream of information, obsessed with absolute numbers, exploiting the lack of trust in the healthcare infrastructure and magnifying the fear of collapsing systems.
4. Authoritarian longings – a deep desire for sovereign rule, which derives pleasure from destruction and tries to push the world to the edge of collapse so that it can be rebuilt from the scratch.

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/people/carlo-caduff

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/what-went-wrong-corona-and-the-world-after-the-full-stop(a4abc6eb-e1b7-4c18-9349-8e36c04826d0).html

Categories
Publications

Comment on Flaxman et al. (2020): The illusory effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe – Professor Stefan Homburg

Flaxman et al. (Nature, 8 June 2020, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2405-7, 2020) infer that non-pharmaceutical interventions conducted by several European countries considerably reduced effective reproduction numbers and saved millions of lives. We show that their method is ill-conceived and that the alleged effects are artefacts. Moreover, we demonstrate that the United Kingdom’s lockdown was both superfluous and ineffective.

https://advance.sagepub.com/articles/Comment_on_Flaxman_et_al_2020_The_illusory_effects_of_non-pharmaceutical_interventions_on_COVID-19_in_Europe/12479987/1

Categories
Publications

UK Covid-19 infection peak may have fallen before lockdown, new analysis shows – Professor Simon Wood, University of Bristol

By simply separating out weekly reporting variability, the long-term death rate profile becomes clear, and its peak can be located with confidence. Using the distribution of times from disease onset to death, it is possible to extend the model to infer the time course of fatal infections required to produce the later deaths. Because of the wide variability in onset to death times, a quite sharply peaked infection curve produces a death curve that declines only slowly. The inferred infection curve peaks a few days before lockdown, with fatal infections now likely to be occurring at a much-reduced rate.

Diagram shows the inferred time course of the number of fatal infections, where day 0 is March 13th. The continuous curve is the median estimate. The dashed curves delimit 80% and 95% credible intervals. The vertical grey line shows day of lock down. The overlaid scaled bar chart summarizes the probability distribution for the day of the infection peak.

http://bristol.ac.uk/maths/news/2020/peak-lockdown.html

Categories
Publications

Coronamania? Covid-19 never grew exponentially – the threat was misunderstood

There was no exponential growth in Covid-19 infections the UK. From the first days of the outbreak growth rates were in decline.

The following chart produced by financial strategist Alistair Haimes should put the above question to rest (compare it with the above chart).

The left hand side starts in March 2020 when the UK had had its first 300 infections and then stops at 10 April when Europe as a whole had reached a growth rate of zero or less. The chart is analogous to the above chart of interest rates. If you cannot distinguish the different colours and European countries don’t worry too much (UK is dark blue) as they all show the same overall pattern. The trends are all downwards, from start to finish.

http://inproportion2.talkigy.com/exponential_or_not.html

Categories
Videos

The epidemic is on its way out – Professor Sunetra Gupta, UnHerd

We spoke to Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford and head of the team that released a study in March which speculated that as much as 50% of the population may already have been infected and the true Infection Fatality Rate could be as low as 0.1%.

In her first major interview since the Oxford study was published, she goes further by arguing that Covid-19 has already passed through the population and is now on its way out. She said:

On antibodies:
• Many of the antibody tests are “extremely unreliable”
• They do not indicate the true level of exposure or level of immunity • “Different countries have had different lockdown policies, and yet what we’ve observed is almost a uniform pattern of behaviour”
• “Much of the driving force was due to the build-up of immunity”

On IFR:

• “Infection Fatality Rate is less than 1 in 1000 and probably closer to 1 in 10,000.”
• That would be somewhere between 0.1% and 0.01%

On lockdown policy:
• Referring to the Imperial model: “Should we act on a possible worst case scenario, given the costs of lockdown? It seems to me that given that the costs of lockdown are mounting that case is becoming more and more fragile”
• Recommends “a more rapid exit from lockdown based more on certain heuristics, like who is dying and what is happening to the death rates”

On the UK Government response:
• “We might have done better by doing nothing at all, or at least by doing something different, which would have been to pay attention to protecting the vulnerable”

On the R rate:
• It is “principally dependent on how many people are immune” and we don’t have that information.
• Deaths are the only reliable measure.

On New York:
• “When you have pockets of vulnerable people it might rip through those pockets in a way that it wouldn’t if the vulnerable people were more scattered within the general population.”

On social distancing:
• “Remaining in a state of lockdown is extremely dangerous”
• “We used to live in a state approximating lockdown 100 years ago, and that was what created the conditions for the Spanish Flu to come in and kill 50m people.”

On next steps:
• “It is very dangerous to talk about lockdown without recognising the enormous costs that it has on other vulnerable sectors in the population”
• It is a “strong possibility” that if we return to full normal tomorrow — pubs, nightclubs, festivals — we would be fine.

On the politics of Covid:
• “There is a sort of libertarian argument for the release of lockdown, and I think it is unfortunate that those of us who feel we should think differently about lockdown”
• “The truth is that lockdown is a luxury, and it’s a luxury that the middle classes are enjoying and higher income countries are enjoying at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and less developed countries.”

Categories
Opinion

Neil Ferguson’s Imperial model could be the most devastating software mistake of all time – The Telegraph

Imperial College’s modelling of non-pharmaceutical interventions for Covid-19 which helped persuade the UK and other countries to bring in draconian lockdowns will supersede the failed Venus space probe and could go down in history as the most devastating software mistake of all time, in terms of economic costs and lives lost.

Categories
Opinion

We, the undersigned software engineers, call for any papers based on this codebase to be immediately retracted

…when a codebase is used to craft scholarly publications that are in turn used to influence public policy, the authors of those publications (and ultimately policy) need to ensure that the science is verifiable in a public sense. The lack of tests makes that an impossibility. So closure of this Issue, by retraction of studies based on it, is meant as a critique of the publication and policy authors, not the contributors to this repo

https://github.com/mrc-ide/covid-sim/issues/165

Categories
Opinion

OF BITS, BUGS AND RESPONSIBILITY IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

…for thirteen years, taxpayer funding from the MRC went to Ferguson and his team, and all it produced was code that violated one of the most fundamental precepts of good software development – intelligibility.