Pretty Illustrations from the Imperial Group on COVID-19 Interventions

For those following the events overseas, in the land of Her Majesty the Queen, Neil Ferguson and the Imperial group bring us a new model and study published in Nature.

This is the team that produced the same completely flawed model that predicted the Millions of deaths in the US and UK.

To put that in perspective, the first graph shows what their model predicted for Sweden which never had a lockdown.

Even the least cynical among us must have trouble not wondering about how they managed to save 3.1 Million deaths.

Devil is in the details, so let’s dig in.

First problem: The claim from their press release reads:

“Lockdown and school closures in Europe may have prevented 3.1 million deaths”

From the actual study we find some key weasel words:

>>”The counterfactual model without interventions is illustrative only and reflects our model assumptions.” <<

I looked up “illustrative” in the dictionary, and found this entirely appropriate definition:  “Tending to make glorious or illustrious, honorific”

This certainly meets the bar since “illustrative” is not congruent with accuracy that is for sure.

Then there is the word assumptions. Which are not facts:-

How do they get off stating it is illustrative and then posting the number 3.1 Million saved in the same breath?

Maybe they should have claimed their original model was illustrative of the shape of a graph that shows exponential growth, instead of scaremongering that 2+ million people would die in the US and UK without a lockdown? The shape was close, but the numbers weren’t even in the right solar system.

Instead of admitting they totally messed up their model, they used a new model to double down and claim they saved lives.

Here is the claim from the summary:

“Our results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions and lockdown in particular have had a large effect on reducing transmission. Continued intervention should be considered to keep transmission of SARS-CoV-2 under control.”

Please note the “lockdown in particular”.

Except how do they explain Sweden? We know Sweden didn’t lock down, so what does the study show?

Devil is in the details, so let’s go find them.

If you look at Figure 4 , you can see they’ve mapped the interventions by country by approximate date.

Figure 4

1. Now we see the first sleight of hand. – Sweden is listed as closing schools.

2. Except Sweden didn’t close any schools for children under 16. Coronavirus Response Sweden Has Avoided Isolation and Economic Ruin  National Review

3. The second sleight of hand is that Sweden banned public events on March 29?

4. If we go back to Imperial Report #13 (published March 30) Figure 1, we see that it has Sweden banning public events on March 13? Why did the little Swedish flag move?

Figure Banning of Public Events Sweden

5. We know that Sweden banned public events over 500 on March 12 and then further reduced the restriction to 50 on March 29.

6. So why exactly did they decide to change their “public intervention” date from the middle of March to the end?

7. The answer lies in Figure 1 where they show the “illustrative” impact of the interventions on Rt.

8. In the graph of Sweden we see that the Rt drops below zero abruptly on March 30, right when Sweden implemented public events banned.

9. So, all the other interventions had no effect in Sweden (basically self-isolation) and we can all conclude that banning public events over 50 was the factor that moved Rt from pretty much the maximum amount to below 1.

10. So from this model and paper, we can conclude one of two things:

1) All those countries that removed civil liberties, closed schools, and destroyed local businesses could have accomplished the same thing by banning public events over 50.

2) The study only proves that the imperial model can’t show us anything useful other than pretty pictures.

Illustrative indeed.

Link to new study here: Estimating the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe

Link to press release here: Lockdown and school closures in Europe may have prevented 3.1m deaths – Imperial College London

Link to Study 13 here: Report 13 Estimating the number of infections and the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in 11 European countries

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