Monday, November 23, 2020
Home COVID-19 The sloppy science that would doom us to eternal lockdown

The sloppy science that would doom us to eternal lockdown

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TWO new studies have been published – including one from Imperial College, London – saying lockdowns have worked against coronavirus and it’ll be catastrophic to lift them. 

Yet the Imperial model (as before) ‘assumes that changes in the reproduction number are an immediate response to interventions rather than gradual changes in behaviour’.

So the authors assume their thesis. They still fail to allow for varying susceptibility and interaction. While they work back from deaths to infections (good), they use deaths by date of report, not date of death (fail).

It seems we won’t have to wait long to prove them wrong. ‘Claims this is all over can be firmly rejected,’ says Dr Seth Flaxman. ‘We are only at the beginning of this pandemic.’

Dr Samir Bhatt says: ‘There is a very real risk if mobility goes back up there could be a second wave coming reasonably soon, in the next month or two.’

In fact, of course, lockdowns have been being gradually lifted for weeks. Still no second spike. 

The other study is from the University of California, Berkeley, and it claims that just before lockdowns were introduced in China, South Korea, Iran, France and the US, cases were doubling every two days and the lockdowns prevented 530million infections. 

The authors say: ‘In the absence of policy actions, we estimate that early infections of Covid-19 exhibit exponential growth rates of roughly 38 per cent per day.’

But they use case data. Case data is junk – it depends entirely on how many tests are carried out, and on which groups. The exponential growth was because testing was being ramped up. Even Imperial realised that much, and switched to projecting infections back from deaths (albeit by date of report).

The authors even claim to be able to see the immediate impact of different interventions in the case data. That is absurd. It is well known that case data does not accurately reflect the true state of infections, so there is no reason interventions would show up in it in that way. Looking at their graphs, it is also clear that there is no consistent impact of interventions on cases. 

They also, like Imperial, wholly fail to engage with the mounting evidence for high levels of cross immunity and a lower herd immunity threshold. So, again, they assume that without interventions the virus would infect almost everyone.

With scientists like these, the world is doomed to cower behind closed doors for ever. It will be interesting to see if any journalists bother to raise the awkward questions about these studies.

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Will Jones
Dr Will Jones is a maths graduate with a PhD in political philosophy and author of Evangelical Social Theology: Past and Present (Grove, 2017).He blogs at https://faith-and-politics.com/

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