SAGE Modeller: “We Got Everything Wrong.”

Okay, that’s a slightly misleading headline because the SAGE modeller in question, Dr Mike Tildesley, who works as a sooth-sayer at the University of Warwick, didn’t actually say that. In an interview with Freddie Sayers for UnHerd, he says he and his colleagues who’ve been producing models for SAGE under-estimated the efficacy of the vaccines and over-estimated the extent to which people would return to normal after restrictions were eased. And for that reason, they almost certainly over-estimated the impact that unlocking on June 21st would have had on infections, hospitalisations and deaths. Indeed, we know their models were wildly pessimistic because if you compare the number of hospital admissions the models were predicting for round about now they are about three times higher than actual hospital admissions – and that’s the number they were predicting if the Government didn’t unlock on June 21st. Regular readers will recall that Glen Bishop pointed out in Lockdown Sceptics that the Government’s court astrologers had underestimated the efficacy of the vaccines when it published the models it was relying on when it postponed the unlocking a few weeks ago.

Here are some choice quotes from Mystic Mike Dr Tildesley:

Underestimated vaccine efficacy

I think the vaccine efficacies throughout have been slightly underestimated, shall we say, by the modelling groups, we are actually find that the vaccines are much more effective than previously we thought they would be. Now when these models are parameterised, the vaccine efficacy data came through from Public Health England, so we’re not making up these values, we are using the best estimates of values that are coming through from those on the ground that have their estimates of them.

Overestimated behavioural change

I suspect this is something else that perhaps some of these models have slightly overestimated as to what we might expect that we’ll do in terms of the R numbers. This is partly because of people’s behaviour. So just because controls have relaxed, it looks like looking at the data that actually people haven’t gone back to ‘normal’ in terms of what we might have expected prior to the pandemic. So people are still being a little bit more cautious. Maybe they’re not going to the pub in the way that they were, say, back in January 2020. And that, obviously has some implications upon these forecasts that when these models were done.

Why July 19th should go ahead as planned

Looking at the data, looking at possible admissions and deaths, there’s nothing at the moment that really worries me. And I think if we are going to get back to normal, we’ve really got to do it over the summer, when the virus is less likely to transmit anyway. Otherwise I think we’re going to be in a situation where it’s going to be really hard. So I’m hopeful 19th of July does go ahead as planned.

Worth watching in full.

Stop Press: The Telegraph‘s Science Editor Sarah Knapton has written a story based on the UnHerd interview.

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