A scientific model that suggested more than 500,000 Britons could die from Covid-19 without social distancing has received great criticism from other scientists who have looked into the model.
Scientists said that they could not replicate the initial results with the code given.
In scientific research, any result that can’t be replicated by others is perceived as egregious. Professor Neil Ferguson and Imperial College London defended their research by saying they had to extrapolate using very limited data during the early stages of a global pandemic.
Professor Ferguson and his team’s March 17th report is understood by many as one of the reasons why the British government decided to implement lockdown measures all around the nation.
Along with the prediction that half a million Britons will die if no measures were to be taken, the model by Ferguson also estimated that 260,000 will die if limited actions – such as having only patients stay at home – were to be taken.
In contrast, the model estimated less than 20,000 deaths if lockdown measures were to be implemented.
However, increased scrutiny from peers and empirical data seem to show that the model was incorrect. For instance, it may be possible that Ferguson and his team overestimated the efficacy of lockdown measures, as nearly 35,000 have already died despite dire policies.
Moreover, scientists now have credible evidence to believe that the mortality rate was set too high for this particular model. Researches from around the globe estimate the lethality of Covid-19 to be between 0.15% and 0.7%. Ferguson’s model set the rate at 0.9%.
Ferguson explained that at the time of publication, those numbers were not exaggerated. He explained that he extrapolated the numbers after analyzing the cases of China and Italy. Since the initial mass outbreak, both the infection and mortality rate has dropped in both countries.
Professor Michael Thursfield from the University of Edinburgh was one of the vocal critics of Ferguson and his model. After pointing out that the results could not be replicated, Thursfield stated how Ferguson’s record has not been stellar.
For example, Ferguson’s team had estimated that up to 200 million people could die from bird flu. The actual number of deaths were in the hundreds.
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