Neil Ferguson’s Response to an Article in Lockdown Sceptics

21 February 2021

by Professor Neil Ferguson

Prof Neil Ferguson consults his model

One of our readers sent a copy of Derek Winton’s article in Lockdown Sceptics criticising Imperial College’s modelling to Professor Neil Ferguson on the off chance he might actually read it and reply. Rather surprisingly, he did. We’re publishing his response in full below.

Dear XXXX,

I presume you sent me this because you feel upset, angry, that no-one is listening, want to hurt me or change my mind. Or all of the above.

I and my colleagues and friends (John Edmunds, Jeremy Farrar, Marc Lipsitch, Christian Drosten, Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty,…) get so many of these sort of emails that we barely notice anymore. Most get dumped into junk mail folders automatically nowadays.

But for a change, I thought I would reply to you. Not that I really expect it to change the alternative reality you seem to have got sucked into, but occasionally I feel I should try.

To start with may want to read this: https://www.climatechangecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ConspiracyTheoryHandbook.pdf

And ask yourself if a loved one started to exhibit those behaviours, would you be worried?

As to the article you refer to, it recycles the same old, same old misinformation. You may be surprised to learn that the Telegraph and Spectator have published over a dozen corrections in response to complaints from Imperial College about inaccurate articles. For instance, no-one ran the Imperial model for Sweden (other than us).

More substantively, the government never relied on just one model. The models written by LSHTM, Warwick University and Institut Pasteur Paris all agreed with “the” Imperial model. All used different code bases.

And in fact, there was never “one” Imperial model, but several. We now have 4 different COVID models, again which all agree.

Government responses were never dependent on one model. They were driven by the reality that any disease which generates epidemics which double every 3-4 days and for which over 2% of those infected require hospitalisation will overwhelm any health system that exists.

In fact, a case could be made that the U.K. government took too little notice of our (not just Imperial- all the SAGE groups) modelling. In that they basically only acted when they saw hospitalisations and deaths growing exponentially.

Best,

Neil Ferguson