Scientists have levelled a flurry of criticism against Professor Neil Ferguson’s modelling which warned 500,000 people could die from coronavirus, prompting Britain to go into lockdown.
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
Today marks a week since Boris Johnson addressed the nation and changed England’s coronavirus message from Stay Home to Stay Alert.
Roads and public transport are busier this week as people who cannot work remotely return to the daily commute. Meanwhile some pupils are expected to return to school on June 1.
It comes almost two months after Britain was placed in lockdown, with government making the decision on, at least in part, the advice of Imperial College London and Prof Ferguson’s model outlining the potential harm coronavirus could do to the country.
On March 17, just days before the country was placed into lockdown, Imperial College London published research and a press release suggesting restrictions should be put in place to stop the virus spreading.
Speaking then, Prof Ferguson said: ‘It is likely such measures – most notably, large scale social distancing – will need to be in place for many months, perhaps until a vaccine becomes available.’
Researchers from the university warned 510,000 people could die from the virus, settling on the figure by calculating the most vulnerable people deemed to be ‘at the greatest risk of death,’ typically elderly people or those with serious underlying health conditions.
Criticism of Prof Ferguson’s research was voiced at the time, Professor John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for North West England, accused No 10 of relying on a ‘little clique’ of researchers and failing to consult a wider pool of academics.
‘These guys are being regarded as demigods,’ he said in April.
‘Here we are talking about science but this research is being given a kind of religious status, like tablets of stone from the mountain.’
Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine questioned the lockdown policy because the virus may already be more widespread than commonly thought.
According to The Telegraph, University of Edinburgh scientists found problems with the computer coding which Imperial College London used to create its model on the effects of the pandemic.
The model simulated transport links, population size, healthcare provisions and social networks to predict how the pandemic would spread.
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.’
Neil Ferguson’s lockdown lover Antonia Staats is seen out in public for first time since the married mother-of-two cycled across town for secret tryst with government coronavirus adviser
- Antonia Staats, 38, pictured returning to £2 million home in South West London
- First public outing since her secret trysts with Neil Ferguson were revealed
- Visit him twice during lockdown while lecturing the public on social distancing
- Imperial College professor has since quit his post on Sage committee
The last time Antonia Staats travelled any distance during lockdown, it was to cycle across London to ‘illegally’ call on her lover, Professor Neil Ferguson.
But yesterday, seen in public for the first time since their tendresse was revealed, the married mother-of-two was on a decidedly less thrilling mission – to buy pot plants and compost at a garden centre.
At least this time it had the advantage of being state-sanctioned. The German-born campaigner, 38, was pictured – car key in her mouth – on her return to the £2 million home she shares with her academic husband, Dr Christopher Lucas, in South West London.
Antonia Staats, 38, was pictured for the first time since her secret trysts with ‘professor lockdown’ Neil Ferguson were revealed
Garden centres have become the first businesses allowed to reopen to the public since the Government shut down non-essential shops.
Prof Ferguson, 51, allowed Ms Staats to visit him at home during the lockdown on at least two occasions last month while lecturing the public on the need for strict social distancing.
Flouting lockdown rules can be punished with a fine, or even arrest. However, while Scotland Yard criticised Prof Ferguson’s behaviour as ‘disappointing’, a spokesman said he had ‘taken responsibility’ by standing down from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which is advising Ministers on the pandemic.
Professor Neil Ferguson – who led the team that helped to convince ministers to introduce strict rules on social distancing – breached them himself by meeting his married lover
She was seen on her return to the £2 million home she shares with her academic husband, Dr Christopher Lucas, in South West London
Ms Staats grew up in Isny im Allgau in southern Germany, went to university in Berlin and came to London to obtain a masters in Asian politics from the SOAS, where her husband works.
Ms Staats herself works for Avaaz, a global online activist network.
Avaaz – meaning ‘voice’ in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages – says its mission is to ‘close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want’.
Two weeks before Britain was quarantined, she and her colleagues had their own message for the public: ‘Stay at home.’
Everyone, the group declared, should ‘avoid unnecessary close contact’.