An updated response from scientist Neil Ferguson, explaining the update to his prediction can be found near the end of the article.
It’s been a bit unnerving to watch how quickly Americans have been willing to allow the government to take control of almost every part of their lives. From forcing schools to be closed to shuttering stores and restaurants, to office spaces, Americans have willingly followed the same rules as citizens in communist China were forced to abide by, without batting an eye. We watched horrifying videos of the Chinese government using weapons to capture citizens suspected of having coronavirus, as they forcefully dragged them into vans, and drove them away to an unknown location. Yet, when our government told us to go home, lock our doors, and don’t come outside until they tell us it’s okay, we grabbed the last rolls of toilet paper on the mostly empty shelves of the grocery stores and raced into hiding.
Now, Neil Ferguson, the scientist who panicked the world with his inflated predictions of doom and gloom over the coronavirus pandemic is walking it back, and the majority of media outlets are ignoring his updated prediction. Ferguson, who is currently infected with COVID-19, originally predicted that the world would need to go into lockdown for 18+ months, he’s now predicting that the virus will peak and subside within 2-3 weeks.
Early this morning, Jordan Schachtel of the World Institute of Politics tweeted a bombshell revelation that’s getting very little attention from the mainstream media who are trying to keep Americans panicked, as our economy crashes and unemployment numbers skyrocket.
Big thread. The man who panicked the world is now running from his doomsday projections. Shut up and quarantine crowd MIA. No need to apologize to those of us who told you not to blindly trust 1 projection. Scrutinize a little more next time before you surrender your freedoms. https://t.co/EopJL2BhNB
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) March 26, 2020
Former NYT’s reporter Alex Berenson broke down Neil Ferguson’s original scientific prediction versus his current scientific prediction in a series of tweets.
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) March 26, 2020
Berenson adds: He now says both that the U.K. should have enough ICU beds and that the coronavirus will probably kill under 20,000 people in the U.K. – more than 1/2 of whom would have died by the end of the year in any case bc they were so old and sick.
Essentially, what has happened is that estimates of the virus’s transmissibility have increased – which implies that many more people have already gotten it than we realize – which in turn implies it is less dangerous.
Ferguson now predicts that the epidemic in the U.K. will peak and subside within “two to three weeks” – last week’s paper said 18+ months of quarantine would be necessary.
The Federalist reports – British scientist Neil Ferguson ignited the world’s drastic response to the novel Wuhan coronavirus when he published the bombshell report predicting 2.2 million Americans and more than half a million Brits would be killed. After both the U.S. and U.K. governments effectively shut down their citizens and economies, Ferguson is walking back his doomsday scenarios.
Ferguson’s report from Imperial College, which White House and other officials took seriously, said that if the U.S. and U.K. did not shut down for 18 months, and isolation measures were not taken, “we would expect a peak in mortality (daily deaths) to occur after approximately 3 months.” His “models” showed overflowing hospitals and ICU beds.
“For an uncontrolled epidemic, we predict critical care bed capacity would be exceeded as early as the second week in April, with an eventual peak in ICU or critical care bed demand that is over 30 times greater than the maximum supply in both countries,” the report reads.
Imperial College London reports – Last week, Professor Ferguson’s team published a landmark report, which analyzed the likely impact of multiple public health measures on slowing and suppressing the spread of coronavirus.
The report from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling within the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, J-IDEA, recommended more intensive, and socially disruptive interventions to suppress transmission to low levels.
Professor Ferguson, who has been briefing the committee during the outbreak, said that it was clear that the country could not be in lockdown for a year, but wide-scale testing and contact tracing would be required to allow economies to restart.
He said: “The challenge that many countries in the world are dealing with is how we move from an initial intensive lockdown… to something that will have societal effects but will allow the economy to restart.
“That is likely to rely on very large-scale testing and contact tracing.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, reportedly said the administration was particularly focused on the Imperial College report’s conclusion that entire households should stay in isolation for 14 days if any member suffered from COVID-19 symptoms.
But after tens of thousands of restaurants, bars, and businesses closed, Ferguson is now retracting his modeling, saying he feels “reasonably confident” our health care system can cope when the predicted peak of the epidemic arrives in a few weeks. Testifying before the U.K.’s parliamentary select committee on science and technology on Wednesday, Ferguson said he now predicts U.K. deaths from the disease will not exceed 20,000 and could be much lower.
An update to this story with a response from Professor Ferguson has been provided by National Review:
Since the paper came out, Great Britain has adopted a strategy of aggressively containing the virus and expanded its intensive-care capacity, so a prediction of a much lower death toll and less stress on ICUs hardly seems surprising.
Models like this will always turn out to be wrong in some way or other because they rely on very strong assumptions about aspects of the disease we haven’t thoroughly studied yet. If nothing else, the original Imperial model will be obsolete soon, because it didn’t predict what could happen with extensive testing and contact tracing, which is likely the next step once the spread is contained and we have enough tests to go around. But it hasn’t been walked back just yet.
Update: Ferguson himself explains all this in a Twitter thread:
Update 2: A variation on this argument people keep throwing at me is that if the death toll hasn’t been walked back, the original study’s claim that we need to quarantine until a vaccine is developed a year or more from now has been. This doesn’t really work either.
2/4 -This is not the case. Indeed, if anything, our latest estimates suggest that the virus is slightly more transmissible than we previously thought. Our lethality estimates remain unchanged.
— neil_ferguson (@neil_ferguson) March 26, 2020
Ferguson explains that his evidence referred to the deaths that might occur in the UK absent the “presence of intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place.”
Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand).
4/4 – Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand).
— neil_ferguson (@neil_ferguson) March 26, 2020
The model says that you can’t lock things down for a while and then just lift the lockdown because the virus will come back. You need some kind of continuing containment efforts. The original study modeled an idea where lockdowns are lifted and go back into effect repeatedly — that’s where the sub-20,000 death estimates come from — and the text of the report explicitly noted the possibility that strategies could change over time to include test and trace. (As I say above, though, not actually modeling this type of effort is a big limit of the study, because that’s where things seem headed.) In his testimony Ferguson did not advocate a brief lockdown that was later simply lifted; he said the lockdown would be effective until new methods could come online. Which is completely consistent with the original report.