“Pessimistic” SAGE Wrong That Britain Can’t Unlock Early, Says Government Scientist

The Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown could be sped up because of the success of Britain’s vaccine rollout, according to a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling (SPI-M) group. The Mail has the story.

Britain’s roadmap out of lockdown could be sped up because the coronavirus vaccines are working so well, according to one of the Government scientists – despite doomsday modelling by SAGE suggesting lifting restrictions could trigger a surge in deaths.

Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick team that correctly predicted the UK’s second wave, said he was “really pleasantly surprised” that reopening schools did not cause a spike in infections.

The infectious disease modeller, who is also a member of the SPI-M group whose calculations feed into SAGE, told LBC Radio: “If these numbers keep going down over the next few weeks there certainly is an argument to say ‘well actually, we’re doing really well with the road map, it could be sped up’.” 

This week, some of the modelling in documents released by SAGE suggested that lifting curbs fully in June could lead to more than a thousand deaths a day this summer and push the NHS to the brink again.

Dr Tildesley conceded “there may well be” a surge of cases across the country but probably not as high as some of the gloomy forecasts have predicted. The Government was this week accused of using “Project Fear” tactics to prolong coronavirus restrictions by stealth after releasing the tranche of SAGE papers.

The expert group included modelling from three different universities – Imperial College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Dr Tildesley’s team at Warwick University.

After reviewing all three papers, SAGE said social distancing, mask-wearing and Covid vaccine passports will need to remain in place for at least another year to keep the virus in check even when the most brutal curbs are lifted. 

It added that while the vaccines prevent the vast majority of people from falling ill and dying from coronavirus, they “are not good enough” to see all curbs lifted “without a big epidemic”. 

In March, the Government decided not to ease lockdown restrictions before Easter because of a warning from SAGE that this could lead to 55,000 more deaths. Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, has criticised the Government’s scientific advisors for basing their forecasts on the most pessimistic assumptions.

They seem to be picking the most pessimistic of the assumptions each time in order to come up with the worst case scenario, perhaps to avoid complacency. 

They might want to warn people that if we just relax our guard this is what could happen, that’s why a lot of language is written like that. 

I’m certainly not arguing we should totally relax right now but I think the vaccine is doing better than they are saying… and they are just painting a much bleaker scenario than the reality.

Worth reading in full.

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