by Sheri Urban
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who created the highly-cited Imperial College London Wuhan Coronavirus model, which has been cited by organizations like The New York Times and has been instrumental in governmental policy decision-making, offered a massive revision to his model on Wednesday.
Ferguson’s model projected 2.2 million dead people in the United States and 500,000 in the U.K. from COVID-19 if no action were taken to slow the virus and blunt its curve.
However, after just one day of ordered lockdowns in the U.K., Ferguson has changed his tune, revealing that far more people likely have the virus than his team figured. Now, the epidemiologist predicts, hospitals will be just fine taking on COVID-19 patients and estimates 20,000 or far fewer people will die from the virus itself or from its agitation of other ailments, as reported by New Scientist Wednesday.
Ferguson thus dropped his prediction from 500,000 dead to 20,000.
Author and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson broke down the bombshell report via Twitter on Thursday morning (view Twitter thread below).
“This is a remarkable turn from Neil Ferguson, who led the [Imperial College] authors who warned of 500,000 UK deaths — and who has now himself tested positive for #COVID,” started Berenson.
“He now says both that the U.K. should have enough ICU beds and that the coronavirus will probably kill under 20,000 people in the U.K. — more than 1/2 of whom would have died by the end of the year in any case because they were so old and sick,” he wrote.
To put this number in context, there are usually thousands of deaths from the flu each year in the U.K. Here is some information from the University of Oxford on deaths ranging from 600-13,000 per year:
Influenza (flu) is a very common, highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It can be very dangerous, causing serious complications and death, especially for people in risk groups. In rare cases flu can kill people who are otherwise healthy. In the UK it is estimated that an average of 600 people a year die from complications of flu. In some years it is estimated that this can rise to over 10,000 deaths (see for example this UK study from 2013, which estimated over 13,000 deaths resulting from flu in 2008-09). Flu leads to hundreds of thousands of GP visits and tens of thousands of hospital stays a year.
Berenson continued: “Essentially, what has happened is that estimates of the viruses transmissibility have increased — which implies that many more people have already gotten it than we realize — which in turn implies it is less dangerous.”
“Ferguson now predicts that the epidemic in the U.K. will peak and subside within ‘two to three weeks’ — last week’s paper said 18+ months of quarantine would be necessary,” the former reporter highlighted.
“One last point here: Ferguson gives the lockdown credit, which is *interesting* — the UK only began [its] lockdown 2 days ago, and the theory is that lockdowns take 2 weeks or more to work,” stressed Berenson. “Not surprisingly, this testimony has received no attention in the US — I found it only in UK papers. Team Apocalypse is not interested.”
Ferguson’s change of tune comes days after Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta criticized the professor’s model.
“I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” Gupta said, according to the Financial Times.
Professor Gupta led a team of researchers at Oxford in a modeling study which suggests that the virus has been invisibly spreading for at least a month earlier than suspected, concluding that as many as half of the people in the United Kingdom have already been infected by COVID-19.
If her model is accurate, fewer than one in a thousand who’ve been infected with COVID-19 become sick enough to need hospitalization, leaving the vast majority with mild cases or free of symptoms.
In other words, Ferguson’s highly influential initial model was off by orders of magnitude.