Neil Ferguson Imperial College - Covid-19

Raffles

Well-known member
Registered here a couple of days ago, so first post! Other than asking for gardening advice was never brave enough to post on the other site!

I have many thoughts on the current measures in place and the stats/figures being published, but the one concern I have had since the beginning is the reliance on Prof. Neil Ferguson at Imperial College. It was his computer modelling which changed virtually overnight the UK almost implementing, for want of another name the Swedish Model, to the current "lockdown" for 3 weeks and expected to be implemented for an additional 3 weeks later today.

Neil Ferguson's modelling was wrong on Foot and Mouth, BSE, SARS and Avian Flu. The Covid-19 modelling has had no peer review and Neil Ferguson in a recent interview conceded the computer coding for the modelling is not available for anyone to review as it is in his head and is very old code.

He has already revised his figures down from 500,000 which was the initial figure given to the government, which is a positive, however the figures were revised only a few days into the lockdown, when it was admitted it was too soon to know if it had had any effect.

Obviously I do not know any of the discussions ongoing behind the scenes but the reliance on this data worries me, I saw the devasting impact of Foot and Mouth, not just the slaughtering of healthy animals but the huge economic impact. In addition I was affected by many suicides of friends and family.

There have been other scientific models and papers released which have a different view to Imperial College.

Any death is unwelcome and sad, but I am extremely worried about the social, health impact and economic damage being done to the country.

Of course I may be the only one concerned about the reliance on Neil Ferguson, but when he as said today certain measures have to remain until a vaccine, it has only increased my concerns. When a vaccine will be available and passed all the tests required to be safe for use could be a long time, and the question of should everyone be made to have the vaccine is a discussion for another time!

So here goes, first post in AIBU, I am getting brave!
 

Anotherfinemess

Well-known member
Excellent post, Raffles, and you're not alone in having concerns about over-reliance on any one expert - especially when they're so keen on doomsday scenarios which have already been proved false more than once

We all know this is no walk in the park and that the public must be protected, and we know too that a new virus means there's a lot that can't be foreseen. However I'm another who's getting increasingly worried about the excess deaths happening among those who don't even have the virus, and what it might suggest about the cure being worse than the disease

And that's without even touching on the hideous financial cost, which would probably need an entire thread to itself
 
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Raffles

Raffles

Well-known member
Thank you Anotherfinemess, I agree with everything you say, especially the financial impact. It does appear deaths from other illnesses, disease or accidents do not exist when it is quite clear not the case. The worry and impact for those who have had treatment and/or diagnostic tests cancelled for current health conditions is awful.

I think the reliance on Imperial College has backed the government into a corner, to change direction or consult other scientist views would be seen as "failure" rather than sensible.
 

Hotsoapywater

Well-known member
You're right, Raffles.

I too have retained concerns re the Imperial College turnaround. That said, I do think there were plans in place to move from phase 1 (containment) to phase 2 (suppression) and the reduction of interest rates to 0.4% was a measure ahead of the measures on 23rd March. Cheap for the government to borrow bonds at rock bottom rates.

The social impact - in some ways, the measures in place have made me sit up and examine my life. I'm in my early 50s and I remember well the hardships of the 70s, my dad still looks back on that time when his mortgage rate tripled overnight. My daughter is in her early 30s and is really struggling with the measures now. Used to a large social network with her children, holidays, she is very worried. I worry for her generation who have been hit hardest, IMO.

I have been aware of the dismantling of communities for about 20 years. Growing up in a working class area where we had communities, the social impact is huge for my children's generation. For mine, I'm a home bird and go on holiday once a year, and look forward to coming home. Socially I've not been affected.

Economic impact - this is key. Global economy has tanked and lots of small businesses going bust. They've been lost in all of this. The biggest victims. Large organisations that have the financial reserves to furlough and pay their staff while closed and qualify for the retention scheme, will survive. Our high streets have been guillotined. If we think austerity was bad, what is coming is unprepared for. It is evident from social media 'when will we get back to normal' consensus. I don't think we will get back to 'normal'

On the upside, I think people can live with less, less food, less consumerism and less materialistic values. I'm doing cooking lessons with my granddaughter, grandma's cupboard has been an endless source of fascination for her. This is all on face time. Never have we done this before. Hopefully, opportunities can be borne for a different and sustainable way of life for our future generations.

Health impact - well, reliance on a vaccine. I'm no anti vaxxer but the human body is a clever old thing and we may have to find ways to fight off viruses just as we have done with flu, chicken pox, HIV, we shouldn't underestimate the power of our bodies. Of course, daily deaths reporting is hard to absorb, but death is a part of life, we have to accept it.

The over reliance on following science as a model of controlling the nation? Academia has a lit to answer for. Science, can be argued. Just as most theories can. Look at feminism.
 

Anotherfinemess

Well-known member
To be fair I'm sure Neil Freguson isn't the only adviser being consulted, but we're all human and the drive to be the top dog with the "best" set of stats and the ear of the government must be strong

I couldn't possibly say if he's right or wrong on any given fact as I don't have the knowledge to do that, but what I appreciate is balance and I'm not convinced there's enough of that right now
 

Skittles

Well-known member
Excellent first post Raffles! Fully agree, and I really do wonder why they place so much reliance on modelling, which isn't in general a very good surrogate for what happens in 'real life'. Not enough common sense used. In this instance, I was a bit annoyed that the attitude seemed to be 'well, the model says this...', rather than looking around and taking the best practice approach from other countries who were a few steps ahead of us.

Also, they really shouldn't rely on single institution or scientific outputs - it should be a collaborative review and approach - in my opinion.

Keep posting ;)
 
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Raffles

Raffles

Well-known member
Thank you HotSoapyWater, you make very good points.

Anotherfinemess, I would like to think it isn't just Neil Ferguson, but I get the impression it is only Imperial College to which he is the head of the department where the modelling is coming from? I could be wrong of course!

Skittles, Thank you, your comment about a collaborative approach probably summed up my original post in far fewer words!

Purely discussing the information given by Neil Ferguson to the government, why did no-one in either the government or at Imperial College question it? I know that is a very simplistic view but if the same person had been wrong (or the modelling) on 4 previous occassions it should have been questioned before the measures were implemented. In any environment, not just scientific, if there had been 4 incorrect models forecast, this should raise red flags?

At least I got one post in AIBU before it changed it's name!:)
 

Hotsoapywater

Well-known member
I have learned something from your post, Raffles. I wasnt aware he 'advised' on the foot and mouth epidemic. I too remember this. While we didn't have the social media we do today, which has brought an awareness to the public on this pandemic, foot and mouth affected our farming communities deeply. I remember the measures very clearly. All dogs on leads, no field walking....

Swine Flu was very prevalent as it affected young people more than the elderly IIRC.
 
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Raffles

Raffles

Well-known member
I am pleased there wasn't 24 hour news coverage for foot and mouth, from my comments in my first post, you can ascertain I am from and still live in an area which was badly affected by it. It was an awful experience, the sights, sounds and smell I would not like to experience again. As I watch the lambs in the field here now, it does not seem 19 years ago every field was empty. The amount of suicides and heart attacks spiked here during and for quite a while after foot and mouth. I do not want anyone to experience similar because of the economical fallout from covid-19.
 

Easypeasypasta

Well-known member
I’m so glad I’ve found this thread as it is exactly how I feel. Surely, as with every other science-driven policy, we should be relying on evaluation of work across several teams? If Prof Ferguson was applying for a research grant, he would be peer-reviewed and scored based partially on his previous work in this area. Who exactly peer-reviewed this one paper what has had such an extraordinary influence and is changing the very fabric of our society and civil liberties? A NICE technology evaluation for anti cancer drugs is positively draconian compared to the government’s evaluation and rapid deployment of policy based on this one study.
 

GalaxyGirl70

Well-known member
I posted on MN about this, and got shot down in flames. I personally think the Government need to be made to publish the death rates of those who have been denied medical treatment due to this virus - I think it will be a far higher tally. It's been a horrendous over reaction in my eyes, and we are worried sick about the financial impact to our small business. We've already had emails from customers asking to delay work being done as they have paid a deposit but are concerned about paying a final balance. My husband was also told he had a heart issue in March - even privately we can't get him a Consultant appointment, even by phone. I'm far more worried about the impact of this virus than the flaming thing itself.
 

Hotsoapywater

Well-known member
I am pleased there wasn't 24 hour news coverage for foot and mouth, from my comments in my first post, you can ascertain I am from and still live in an area which was badly affected by it. It was an awful experience, the sights, sounds and smell I would not like to experience again. As I watch the lambs in the field here now, it does not seem 19 years ago every field was empty. The amount of suicides and heart attacks spiked here during and for quite a while after foot and mouth. I do not want anyone to experience similar because of the economical fallout from covid-19.
Husband and I were having a conversation about this and I mentioned your post. We lived in a rural location then and rented from a farmer. I'm sure you don't want similar to happen. I only know what we experienced through the eyes of our then landlord. I know he was deeply affected by it and there was one suicide of a neighbouring farmer's wife. Generally, people either cant remember, or were less affected in towns and cities.

19 years ago, it doesn't seem possible but there were images that I'm sure we all can remember if we root back far enough in our minds, those of us who are old enough, at least.

I'm sorry you were so affected by that time.
 

Easypeasypasta

Well-known member
I posted on MN about this, and got shot down in flames. I personally think the Government need to be made to publish the death rates of those who have been denied medical treatment due to this virus - I think it will be a far higher tally. It's been a horrendous over reaction in my eyes, and we are worried sick about the financial impact to our small business. We've already had emails from customers asking to delay work being done as they have paid a deposit but are concerned about paying a final balance. My husband was also told he had a heart issue in March - even privately we can't get him a Consultant appointment, even by phone. I'm far more worried about the impact of this virus than the flaming thing itself.
The cynic in me would say that unlike 20,000 deaths in 2 months, 500,000 additional deaths over 5 years due to missed diagnosis, delayed treatment and the economic fall out, will go under the radar. If you were a the government which would you go with?

In the end, Ferguson is a physicist who got into modelling because he’d good at maths. I’d like to know what his training is in the area of medicine and virology. Mathematical biology is an interesting and up and coming area, but Ferguson is a physicist first and foremost.
 
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Hotsoapywater

Well-known member
I’m so glad I’ve found this thread as it is exactly how I feel. Surely, as with every other science-driven policy, we should be relying on evaluation of work across several teams? If Prof Ferguson was applying for a research grant, he would be peer-reviewed and scored based partially on his previous work in this area. Who exactly peer-reviewed this one paper what has had such an extraordinary influence and is changing the very fabric of our society and civil liberties? A NICE technology evaluation for anti cancer drugs is positively draconian compared to the government’s evaluation and rapid deployment of policy based on this one study.
Was it peer reviewed?

Was a quick turnaround in place on the prospect of this forthcoming paper from Parliament to move from containment to suppression? I might not be making sense, but I'm deeply curious on the pathway from the paper to the lockdown on 23rd March.

As I conveyed in my earlier post, the reduction of interest rates led me to concur the lockdown was planned well in advance.
 

Hotsoapywater

Well-known member
I posted on MN about this, and got shot down in flames. I personally think the Government need to be made to publish the death rates of those who have been denied medical treatment due to this virus - I think it will be a far higher tally. It's been a horrendous over reaction in my eyes, and we are worried sick about the financial impact to our small business. We've already had emails from customers asking to delay work being done as they have paid a deposit but are concerned about paying a final balance. My husband was also told he had a heart issue in March - even privately we can't get him a Consultant appointment, even by phone. I'm far more worried about the impact of this virus than the flaming thing itself.
Do you mean for other conditions, Galaxy? If so, I hear you. I have a nagging devil on my shoulder that is poking me with a cursory tone that the rise in non- CV-19 deaths will be the data that people overlook. I have a family member with unstable angina following a non-stemi MI. Every attack they experience now means we have to treat at home. ECG readings usually dont register a non-stemi MI therefore it is emergency admittance as the symptoms resemble a cardiac event.

I'm so sorry you're experiencing such a worrying time with your business. My son-in-law's boss is heartbroken at the laying off of his team. It is looking increasingly likely my DD will be moving to accommodation to protect her family as she is at the coal face and we cant even help with childcare. We will get through mind, as we are both retired.

You're right. The impact will be the biggest cost, people like my young family who have just got on their feet, you, and many more like you will pay the price.

Sending you the best wishes I can.

Never mind “Was it peer-reviewed?” Was it even accepted for publication in a decent journal or was it in fact a circle jerk between the elusive SAGE group?
Well, was it?

But yes, I get your point.

I have to admit to ignorance surrounding the SAGE group, though.
 
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Raffles

Raffles

Well-known member
Thank you everyone for your points to my OP, so many sensible questions and observations. I am sorry so many of you are experiencing difficulties be it health and/or financial. My husband and I are in similar situations, I suppose it it a "we are all in this together" club none of us ever wanted to be a member of!

GalaxyGirl70 I think it is such a good idea for the figures to be published for the additional deaths, I doubt they will be other than the standard ONS figures which are periodically released (I think).

I have sympathy for the government in what they are dealing with, it cannot be easy BUT my thoughts go back to the information they are basing their decisions on. I sincerley hope they do not follow Ferguson's suggestion made yesterday that we remain as we are until a vaccine is available. Worryingly today there has been the annoucement of the Vaccine taskforce - I do hope Neil Ferguson is not part of its creation. The vaccine, in my opinion, appears to be touted as the be all and end all, with only a tiny consideration given to the havoc the country will undergo whilst waiting for this mythical beast. As I mentioned in my opening post, will the vaccine be rushed through testing and/or become mandatory?

Whilst walking my dogs today, my thoughts turned once again to covid-19, I may not explain this properly but here goes! Whilst understanding it is different to seasonal flu and maybe more infectious, I do wonder if the UK and other countries may have reacted differently if it hadn't been named, but an annoucement made saying something like "this year there is a different strain of coronavirus or seasonal flu, which is known to cause more serious symptoms to some people. Please if you experience any of the following symptoms......self isolate and contact your GP/111 etc" would there have been the same almost hysterical reporting and subsequent actions?
 

Easypeasypasta

Well-known member
Sorry, was too busy expressing my contempt to answer your question @Hotsoapywater.

In reply, not peer reviewed but a commentary has been published. A discussion of which, I might add, warrants a thread of its own!


To quote “ However, the model’s reliance on a simplified picture of social interactions limits its extensibility to counterfactuals.

“Contagions of all sorts—economic, social, and infectious disease—are among the most urgent issues of our time. The government should re-emphasize research into contagion in its sociotechnical context in a renewed, invigorated, and broadened MIDAS-style thrust for the future.”

Elsewhere in the paper, the model used by Ferguson is criticised for its susceptibility to social hysteresis loops, which I take to refer to them impact of human behaviour. I have delved deeper into this phenomenon and this paper is interesting.


The authors suggest that social distancing comes into its own where a disease is moderately contagious and can successfully delay an epidemic while waiting for a vaccine.
However. They state that for a disease which is highly contagious with no vaccine, the benefit is small.

Covid-19 is highly contagious and I suspect that at the time of compiling the report, they either had no idea what they were dealing with or that panic ensued and the warnings of the behavioural scientists have gone unheeded.


Now the SAGE group, that’s the point, no one knows definitively who they are and thus they have no accountability to the electorate whatsoever.
 
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Raffles

Raffles

Well-known member
Sorry, was too busy expressing my contempt to answer your question @Hotsoapywater.

In reply, not peer reviewed but a commentary has been published. A discussion of which, I might add, warrants a thread of its own!


To quote “ However, the model’s reliance on a simplified picture of social interactions limits its extensibility to counterfactuals.

“Contagions of all sorts—economic, social, and infectious disease—are among the most urgent issues of our time. The government should re-emphasize research into contagion in its sociotechnical context in a renewed, invigorated, and broadened MIDAS-style thrust for the future.”

Now the SAGE group, that’s the point, no one knows definitively who they are and thus they have no accountability to the electorate whatsoever.
I have read the commentry you published previously, the part which really stood out for me is - The TLC study did not consider how and when to lift intervention measures, so the questions addressed by this study demonstrate important progress. They appear to have been influential in convincing policy-makers in the UK and the USA of the threat posed by COVID-19. They have stimulated discussion of novel mitigation strategies, although, once again, there is skepticism about the feasibility of on-again and off-again interventions. Such strategies not only depend on effective communication and adherence, but also on the premise of zero delay between sensing (e.g., ICU occupancy) and reacting (social distancing). The natural delay between imposing restrictions and seeing a drop in confirmed cases (as seen in Wuhan) will create social hysteresis loops. Also, it will be difficult for most officials to relax controls in the certain knowledge that many people will be infected.

My astonishment at the part stating that there was no exit stradegy as well as the statement that officials will find it difficult to relax controls because of certain increase of infection rates. Surely once should know the exit plan BEFORE implementing the plan, the exit plan can be to a certain extent slightly flexible but there has to be a plan. We are in a hysterical loop most certainly.
 

BeijingBikini

Well-known member
OMG, this is the thread I needed to read. So many other doctors, professors and modellers have called out his modelling and recommendations as completely overshooting the mark. The countries that have done adequate testing (Germany, Iceland) have got a much lower death rate. I think it is dangerous to rely on one type of specialist to mobilise a nationwide policy - if you'd just consulted an economist they would have said "keep everything as it is", and if you consult just an epidemiologist, we now have the other extreme of "we have to shut everything down for 18 months". Nothing about this is measured and balanced, it is impossible to argue any sort of case about the drawbacks of lockdowns (potentially much more deaths down the line of other causes) without some ad-hominem emotive attacks like "do you want your grandma to die!!!"
 
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