Experts say modelling that predicted 500,000 Covid-19 deaths is a mess

Professor Lockdown’s modelling which predicted 500,000 would die from Covid-19 and inspired Government’s ‘Stay Home’ plan is a ‘mess which would get you fired in private industry’ say data experts

  • Professor Neil Ferguson’s Imperial College London coding branded ‘unreliable’
  • University of Edinburgh scientists ran the same model and had different results 
  • Prof Ferguson left the government’s Sage group after breaking lockdown rules  
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Scientists have levelled a flurry of criticism against Professor Neil Ferguson’s modelling which prompted Britain to go into lockdown after it claimed 500,000 people could die from Covid-19. 

Modelling from Imperial College London epidemiologist Prof Ferguson, who stepped down from the government’s Sage group at the start of May, has been described as unreliable by experts, while tests of the model have pulled together different results, The Telegraph reports.

David Richards, co-founder of British data technology company WANdisco, said: ‘In our commercial reality we would fire anyone for developing code like this and any business that relied on it to produce software for sale would likely go bust.’

Modelling behind Professor Neil Ferguson’s claim that 500,000 Brits could die from Covid-19 has been criticised by scientists 

Computer coding from the model simulated transport links, population size, healthcare provisions and social networks to predict how the pandemic would spread. However experts told The Telegraph the coding was messy and outdated. 

University of Edinburgh researchers reportedly found bugs when running the model, getting different results when they used different machines, or even the same machines in some cases. 

Weeks after the model’s grim prediction, the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Michael Thursfield criticised Prof Ferguson’s record as ‘patchy’ referring to predictions in the early 2000s that up to 136,000 people could die from mad cow disease and 200million from bird flu.

Prof Ferguson stepped down from his role on Sage, the board of scientists advising the government through coronavirus pandemic, at the start of the month after it was revealed he had broken lockdown rules he helped to inspire. 

Antonia Staats visited Prof Ferguson at his London flat while Britons were being told to stay home

It was revealed Prof Ferguson had invited his lover Antonia Staats to his London flat, while the British public was being told to stay home. 

A spokesman from the university’s Covid-19 response team said: ‘The UK government has never relied on a single disease model to inform decision-making. 

‘As has been repeatedly stated, decision-making around lockdown was based on a consensus view of the scientific evidence, including several modelling studies by different academic groups. 

‘Multiple groups using different models concluded that the pandemic would overwhelm the NHS and cause unacceptably high mortality in the absence of extreme social distancing measures. 

‘Within the Imperial research team we use several models of differing levels of complexity, all of which produce consistent results. We are working with a number of legitimate academic groups and technology companies to develop, test and further document the simulation code referred to. 

‘However, we reject the partisan reviews of a few clearly ideologically motivated commentators. 

‘Epidemiology is a not a branch of computer science and the conclusions around lockdown rely not on any mathematical model but on the scientific consensus that COVID-19 is a highly transmissible virus with an infection fatality ratio exceeding 0.5% in the UK.’

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