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The mathematical models underpinning the government’s Covid-19 strategy are largely informed by “educated guesswork, intuition and experience”, one of its scientific advisers has said.

“Educated” appears to be redundant there, given how far out the models have been. The days when mega-billion decisions hang on “modelling” must be over. Academics feeding their prejudices into poorly coded models simply doesn’t cut it.

It goes double for that other fiercely asserted but highly dubious crises, which is also predicated on modelling which invariably turns out to be at odds with the real world.

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  1. The problem with the Imperial College model is that it posited two extremes, namely compulsory lockdown or business as usual. It took no account of voluntary social distancing and changed behaviour which was already well in progress in the UK in the weeks before 23 March.

    Sweden has relied on voluntary action and Swedish common sense, and it is doing much better in terms of normal life and economic activity, and its infection and fatality figures are better than the UK:

    “Swedish Covid-19 trends are pointing in the right direction. Fewer ICU beds are now occupied, especially in Stockholm where the number of patients in intensive care has dropped by almost 40 per cent since the peak. The daily intake of new intensive care patients is now in the low double digits. The daily death toll flatlined in the second half of April and, mercifully, has since been on a declining trend. And then we have the reproduction rate of the virus – the famous R number that now seems to command much of the British exit strategy. We’ve been warned by Neil Ferguson and others that Sweden’s R number is still in the region of 1.3-1.4 – meaning that the virus still spreads exponentially. However, the Swedish Public Health Agency gives a very different estimate: the R has been below 1 since mid-April or so, and now stands at about 0.85. Britain’s R-number is estimated to be between 0.6 and 1.0 – so if you go by average, we’re in roughly the same place…”


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