We now know that most of the models Western leaders relied on to justify harsh lockdowns of society were deeply flawed. Neil Ferguson and his infamous Imperial College model come to mind. Some models were even intentionally flawed.
Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior ordered researchers from various institutions to cook up a model to justify the lockdown it wanted.
A recent report by Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) found the omicron wave could be five times more deaths than any other wave yet, killing up to 6,000 Britons in a single day.
But it turns out that the headlined 6,000 number was at the top of a long range for “scenarios,” not projections. The bottom scenario foresaw just 600 deaths a day.
The Daily Telegraph asked Graham Medley, the chairman of the Sage modeling committee and a professor at the London School of Hygiene, about this and why his own school’s omicron scenarios assumed that it was just as deadly as Delta, even though the evidence is that its infections are much milder.
The interview is worth quoting at length:
“I asked Prof Medley: why not say so? When giving his scenarios, why couldn’t he say what JP Morgan had said: that if (omicron) is as mild as the South Africans seem to think there could be no real problem and no need for lockdown? “What would be the point of that?” he replied….. “Decision-makers are generally only interested in situations where decisions have to be made.” But isn’t it just as vital to be told if action is not needed? I asked him straight. “So you exclusively model bad outcomes that require restrictions and omit just-as-likely outcomes that would not require restrictions?”
“We generally model what we are asked to model,” came the reply. “There is a dialogue in which policy teams discuss with the modelers what they need to inform them with their policy.”
Until now, we’ve been told that policy is informed by the data: the impartial independent Sage scientists come down with their figures, and ministers act on this advice. Lockdown is always said to follow the science. But Prof Medley suggests that the science is shaped by the desired policy outcomes, not the other way around.