I LISTENED to the apocalyptic Government news briefing on Monday by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, suggesting a horrific second wave of coronavirus could be on its way. Here are a few things they ‘forgot’ to mention:
1. False positives: when prevalence is low and testing is high, a false postive rate of say 0.8% for a test is hugely significant. Say if there are only 100 actual cases but 200,000 tests with a 0.8 per cent false positive rate. Now, 0.8 per cent of 200,000 equals 1,600 false positives.
So there would be 100 actual positives and 1,600 false positives – meaning that only one out of 17 positives would be a real positive. This is hugely significant, is widely known and should have been mentioned to put the cases in perspective.
2. Whitty and Vallance spoke of what could happen if cases rose exponentially, leading to a catastrophe. They ‘forgot’ to mention that when you look at hospitalisations and deaths, the pandemic has never grown exponentially anywhere in the world, according to Nobel Laureate Professor Michael Levitt, who has been analysing the pandemic since January with his Stanford University team in California.
3. They ‘forgot’ to mention all the studies now suggesting significant prior immunity in the population from other coronaviruses (the common cold) … meaning that possibly up to 80 per cent of the population have prior immunity and that the herd immunity threshold may be able to be reached when only 10-20% of the population have been infected.
4. They ‘forgot’ to mention the ‘flurry’ of studies suggesting evidence of long-lasting significant immunity for those who have had the virus even though antibodies can quickly fade.
5. They ‘forgot’ to mention that the apparently frightening second wave in Spain so far has been only a ripple when you look at daily deaths. Analysis by the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine appears to show the ripple already peaking.
6. They ‘forgot’ to mention that Sweden, which didn’t do lockdown, is believed by many to have reached a degree of herd immunity, with an average of one intensive care unit admission per day now, only 0.06 per cent of the population having died (same as us) and no evidence of any second wave yet.
7. They ‘forgot’ to mention that since we locked down later than Spain and France, we are likely to have more immunity in the population and thus are likely to be in a better situation than them now.
These omissions are significant as they are the difference between a reassuring, promising and hopeful picture and a terrifying, doomsday insomnia-inducing picture.
And on the same subject, TCW reader David Rabey writes:
Watching the question-free press conference, my initial reaction was one of laughter. I thought of film remakes like Whitty-Whitty Bang-Bang, The Man Who Shot Illiberty Vallance, and Hancock Rides Again.
I remembered the classic Two Ronnies playlet The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town and how effortlessly Chris and Patrick would suit a remake.
Then the mirth died. I had witnessed an abuse of scientific and mathematical method so grievous it would disgrace the Diane Abbott Mathematics Faculty.
To the adage ‘there are lies, damn lies and statistics’, we must now add ‘egregious data manipulation to suit a political narrative’, later embellished in the Commons by Matt Hancock, exposed as having no grasp of the meaning and significance of a False Positive Ratio.
To put this in perspective, I am neither a lockdown sceptic nor a lockdown zealot. That presentation yesterday disrespected the British public, took us for granted and treated us like fools.
Our patience is not infinite. We can spot bull***t at 1,000 miles and there was plenty of it yesterday.