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.
…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
…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.
This Ferguson Model is such a joke it is either an outright fraud, or it is the most inept piece of programming I may have ever seen in my life. There is no valid test to warrant any funding of Imperial College for providing ANY forecast based upon this model. This is the most UNPROFESSIONAL operation perhaps in computer science. The entire team should be disbanded and an independent team put in place to review the world of Neil Ferguson and he should NOT be allowed to oversee any review of this model.
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College “stepped back” from the Sage group advising ministers when his lockdown-busting romantic trysts were exposed. Perhaps he should have been dropped for a more consequential misstep. Details of the model his team built to predict the epidemic are emerging and they are not pretty. In the respective words of four experienced modellers, the code is “deeply riddled” with bugs, “a fairly arbitrary Heath Robinson machine”, has “huge blocks of code – bad practice” and is “quite possibly the worst production code I have ever seen”.
- Just 11 people under the age of 20 have succumbed to Covid-19.
- Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College has a dismal record as a forecaster.
- There’s the possibility that the lockdown has actually made the virus more deadly.
- Bank of England warned that if the lockdown is extended until June the economy could shrink by 14 per cent this year.
- More than one-in-five adults now furloughed on 80per cent of their wages.
- A fifth of the working-age population could be jobless and the quality of people’s mental and physical health would plummet.
- Every day, about 1,700 people die in Britain. Only five years ago, in the winter of 2014/15, more than 28,000 people died from seasonal flu, not far off the current coronavirus death toll of just over 30,000.
- Direct evidence to support the two-metre rule is weak, and based almost entirely on modelling rather than real life.
All papers based on this code should be retracted immediately. Imperial’s modelling efforts should be reset with a new team that isn’t under Professor Ferguson, and which has a commitment to replicable results with published code from day one.
On a personal level, I’d go further and suggest that all academic epidemiology be defunded. This sort of work is best done by the insurance sector. Insurers employ modellers and data scientists, but also employ managers whose job is to decide whether a model is accurate enough for real world usage and professional software engineers to ensure model software is properly tested, understandable and so on. Academic efforts don’t have these people, and the results speak for themselves.
Indeed, Ferguson’s Imperial College model has been proven wildly inaccurate. To cite just one example, it saw Sweden paying a huge price for no lockdown, with 40,000 COVID deaths by May 1, and 100,000 by June. Sweden now has 2,854 deaths and peaked two weeks ago. As Fraser Nelson, editor of Britain’s Spectator, notes: “Imperial College’s model is wrong by an order of magnitude.”
Throughout the UK’s coronavirus crisis, the government has stressed its response has been guided not by ideology; not by politics – but by the science. So what are the scientific justifications for lockdown?
Disruption to tuberculosis services due to the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to as many as 6.3 million additional cases of TB and 1.4 million deaths worldwide over the next five years, a new study has shown
With a purely statistical perspective, [Prof Michael Levitt] has been playing close attention to the Covid-19 pandemic since January, when most of us were not even aware of it. He first spoke out in early February, when through analysing the numbers of cases and deaths in Hubei province he predicted with remarkable accuracy that the epidemic in that province would top out at around 3,250 deaths.
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- Professor Neil Ferguson was not doing science.
- Lockdowns are worse than useless.
- It was known to everyone that the lockdown would cause a catastrophe.
- Isolating nursing homes would have prevented the load of hospitals.
- The lockdown approach taken by most governments was a human catastrophe that should never have happened.
- All we have done is slowed the spread of herd immunity and increased the risk to the elderly.
- We have wasted a lot of time, money and lives.
- The spread of respiratory diseases are predictable and relatively short.
- Bill Gate’s comments about the need to lockdown until a vaccine is ready is absurd and has nothing to do with reality.
- We don’t need a vaccine for COVID-19.
- “I don’t know where the government finds these so-called experts who very obviously don’t understand the very basics of epidemiology.”
- Tragic stories from some doctors are not representative of the general experience. We don’t stop living our lives because something goes wrong in a particular place.
- The Swedish approach shows that the draconian measures taken in other countries were unnecessary.
- We may see a ‘Second Wave’ rebound but it may be low.
- There is no reason to believe that COVID-19 will be fundamentally different from other coronaviruses.
- Having a novel virus is not novel.
- We have no science about the effect of social distancing.
- The COVID-19 disaster is a failure of the people to take control of the government.
- There is no reason to wait before opening up schools and businesses.
The Western World has been encouraged by their lack of responsibility coupled with uncontrolled media and academic errors to commit suicide for an excess burden of death of one month.
- UK policy on lockdown and other European countries are not evidence-based
- The correct policy is to protect the old and the frail only
- This will eventually lead to herd immunity as a “by-product”
- The initial UK response, before the “180 degree U-turn”, was better
- The Imperial College paper was “not very good” and he has never seen an unpublished paper have so much policy impact
- The paper was very much too pessimistic
- Any such models are a dubious basis for public policy anyway
- The flattening of the curve is due to the most vulnerable dying first as much as the lockdown
- The results will eventually be similar for all countries
- Covid-19 is a “mild disease” and similar to the flu, and it was the novelty of the disease that scared people.
- The actual fatality rate of Covid-19 is the region of 0.1%
- At least 50% of the population of both the UK and Sweden will be shown to have already had the disease when mass antibody testing becomes available
Summary from 21st Century Wire.
“Barely a day goes by without a politician saying that they will be ‘led by the science’. But what we are seeing with Covid-19 is not ‘science’ in action.”