Neil Ferguson, the Scientist Who Convinced Boris Johnson of UK Covid Lockdown, Isn’t Very Bright
He has made sensationalist — and incredibly costly — predictions which fell wide off the mark before, yet the government keeps turning to him
The scientist whose calculations about the potentially devastating impact of the coronavirus directly led to the countrywide lockdown has been criticised in the past for flawed research.
Professor Neil Ferguson, of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College in London, produced a paper predicting that Britain was on course to lose 250,000 people during the coronavirus epidemic unless stringent measures were taken. His research is said to have convinced Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his advisors to introduce the lockdown.
However, it has now emerged that Ferguson has been criticised in the past for making predictions based on allegedly faulty assumptions which nevertheless shaped government strategies and impacted the UK economy.
He was behind disputed research that sparked the mass culling of farm animals during the 2001 epidemic of foot and mouth disease, a crisis which cost the country billions of pounds.
And separately he also predicted that up to 150,000 people could die from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or ‘mad cow disease’) and its equivalent in sheep if it made the leap to humans. To date there have been fewer than 200 deaths from the human form of BSE and none resulting from sheep to human transmission.
Mr Ferguson’s foot and mouth disease (FMD) research has been the focus of two highly critical academic papers which identified allegedly problematic assumptions in his mathematical modelling.
The scientist has robustly defended his work, saying that he had worked with limited data and limited time so the models weren’t 100 per cent right – but that the conclusions it reached were valid.
Michael Thrusfield, professor of veterinary epidemiology at Edinburgh University, who co-authored both of the critical reports, said that they had been intended as a “cautionary tale” about how mathematical models are sometimes used to predict the spread of disease.
He described his sense of “déjà vu” when he read Mr Ferguson’s Imperial College paper on coronavirus, which was published earlier this month.
That paper – Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand – warned that if no action were taken to control the coronavirus, around 510,000 people in Britain would lose their lives.
It also predicted that approximately 250,000 people could die if the Government’s conservative approach at the time was not changed. The research, which was based on mathematical models, was key in convincing the Prime Minister that “suppression” – and subsequently a lockdown – was the only viable option to avoid huge loss of life and an NHS meltdown.
This week, a second paper authored by Mr Ferguson and the Imperial team further predicted that 40 million people worldwide could die if the coronavirus outbreak was left unchecked.
But scientists warned last night about the dangers in making sweeping political judgments based on mathematical modelling which may be flawed.
In 2001, as foot and mouth disease (FMD) broke out in parts of Britain, Ferguson and his team at Imperial College produced predictive modelling – which was later criticised as “not fit for purpose.”
At the time, however, it proved highly influential and helped to persuade Tony Blair’s government to carry out a widespread pre-emptive culling which ultimately led to the deaths of more than six million cattle, sheep and pigs. The cost to the economy was later estimated at £10 billion.
The model produced in 2001 by Professor Ferguson and his colleagues at Imperial suggested that the culling of animals include not only those found to be infected with the virus but also those on adjacent farms even if there was no physical evidence of infection.
“Extensive culling is sadly the only option for controlling the current British epidemic, and it is essential that the control measures now in place be maintained as case numbers decline to ensure eradication,” said their report, published after the cull began.
The strategy of mass slaughter – known as contiguous culling – sparked revulsion in the British public and prompted analyses of the methodology which has led to it.
A 2011 paper, Destructive Tension: mathematics versus experience – the progress and control of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic in Great Britain, found that the government ordered the destruction of millions of animals because of “severely flawed” modelling.
According to one of its authors – the former head of the Pirbright Laboratory at the Institute for Animal Health, Dr Alex Donaldson – Ferguson’s models made a “serious error” by “ignoring the species composition of farms,” and the fact that the disease spread faster between some species than others.
The report stated: “The mathematical models were, at best, crude estimations that could not differentiate risk between farms and, at worst, inaccurate representations of the epidemiology of FMD.”
It also described a febrile atmosphere – reminiscent of recent weeks – and claimed that this allowed mathematical modellers to shape government policy.
“The general impatience that met the wait for the full extent of infections to become apparent, accompanied by an ever-increasing number of outbreaks and piles of carcasses awaiting disposal, was perceived as a lack of success of the traditional control measures and provided the opportunity for self-styled ‘experts’, including some veterinarians, biologists and mathematicians, to publicise unproven novel options,” the researchers said.
An earlier report, in 2006, Use and abuse of mathematical models: an illustration from the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic in the United Kingdom, identified Professor Ferguson’s modelling as having been the biggest driver of government policy.
The paper said that “the models were not ﬁt for the purpose of predicting the course of the epidemic and the effects of control measures. The models also remain unvalidated. Their use in predicting the effects of control strategies was therefore imprudent.”
On Friday, Professor Thrusfield said: “When we wrote those two review papers, we thought it would be a cautionary tale for the future if foot and mouth disease struck again. We didn’t think it would be a cautionary tale for a new plague in the human population – but of course the cautionary tale is fully valid.
“This is déjà vu. During the [FMD] epidemic there was quite vocal opposition from members of the vet profession – especially those who had their hands soaked in blood, killing perfectly healthy cattle.
“There was also a major economic and emotional impact on those involved, [because] the slaughter of these animals that were perfectly healthy. This was serious stuff. This was farmers losing their livelihoods. They need not have been slaughtered but they were because the predictions were wrong.”
Last night, Dr Paul Kitching – lead author of Use and abuse of mathematical models, and the former chief veterinarian of Canada’s British Columbia province – raised fears over the modelling being done on coronavirus.
“The basic principles on modelling described in our paper apply to this Covid-19 crisis as much as they did to the FMD outbreak.
“In view of the low numbers of Covid-19 tests being reported as carried out in affected countries, it is difficult to understand what informs the current models. In particular the transmission rate. How many mild and subclinical infections are occurring?”
“The model driven policy of FMD control resulted in tragedy. Vast numbers of animals were slaughtered without reason. Untold human and animal suffering was the result – not to mention the financial consequences.”
However, Sir David King, who was the Chief Scientific Advisor to the government in 2001, said that criticism of the epidemiological modelling was “misplaced.”
He said: “I would agree there was some unnecessary culling taking place, but this is simply because there wasn’t a unity in the way the thing was being handled.”
Professor Ferguson said of his modelling for FMD: “A number of factors going into deciding policy, of which science – particularly modelling – is only one. It is ludicrous to say now that our model changed government policy. A number of factors did.
“We were doing modelling in real-time as the other groups were in 2001 – certainly the models weren’t 100% right, certainly with limited data and limited time to do the work. But I think the broad conclusions reached were still valid.”
Of his work on BSE, in which he predicted human death toll of between 50 and 150,000, Professor Ferguson said: “Yes, the range is wide, but it didn’t actually lead to any change in government policy.”
Others have directly criticised the methodology employed by Ferguson and his team in their coronavirus study.
John Ioannidis, professor in disease prevention at Stanford University, said: “The Imperial College study has been done by a highly competent team of modellers. However, some of the major assumptions and estimates that are built in the calculations seem to be substantially inflated.”
Professor Ferguson said anyone who thought the coronavirus was akin to seasonal flu was “living in cloud cuckoo land.”
He defended the conclusions reached “in terms of the overwhelming demand on healthcare systems imposed by this virus.”
“It is ludicrous, frankly, to suggest that the severity of this virus is comparable to seasonal flu – ludicrous and dangerous. People who are doing so have not analysed the data in any level of detail.”
Source: The Telegraph
And people like this, allegedly “SCIENTISTS” making predictions on their own “MODELING” is the reason, no one can rely on anything coming from their mouths. Climate change included.
This is why you strip government of any powers of “law enforcement.”
Government is a grouping of idiots taking advice from fools. Or is it the other way around. Whatever, just because they are in government does not mean a person is in any way brighter than the rest of us. Clearly they are not..
England should start culling the foreigners in London first and not the innocent farm animals…. all the machete and knife sports needs to be stopped permanently…
Sallie Ann, you are aware of course, that NO animals are currently getting culled, right ? That was in the past. Regards the machete/knife sports, you’ve got me there, I haven’t the faintest idea of what your talking about with that one.
There have been numerous reports of machete wielding foreigners in London hacking at people…and of numerous knife attacks in London….
Instead of drooling with the idiots I recomend you aka site to go to this hostpitals, around this so called hot zones, and make videos, is this “reality” witch the MSM pimps, with images and intevjues, in fact real, I have seen videos witch would make your jaws drop, because there is no corelation between what the MSM and politicians claim and what actually is happening, this, morons isnt real, the Corona is one bloody hoax, period, and corona have been here for ages, and now suddenly its killing people an mass, and do know this, the same eh…. Brigades/Units/HasbaRats/whatevers are out right now in the comentary fields backing the lies, because this is an Live Exercise, nothing else.
Do notice again, the same images, rows of cofins to children died somewhere, and in an population of billions, this few deaths are highlighted to the extrem, and the same deaths is writen about in ALL( the Norwegian MSM is hysterical and rotten to the core, as all the others are) of the so called News sites incl an pack of the second biggest scam, the so called alternative sites, shitholes like ZH to RT, witch I dont read that much anymore, the head lines tells me what I need, and scare porn is the new norm, all to herd us into an new world order, and even now, when we are stearing into the barrel of an cannon, most refues, because this is about saving our asses, right, from an “deadly epedemic”.
This corona is an flu, for christ sake, get that, but the problem we all face, is corruption, the same MSM whom have lied into our faces for decades, and the same polticians, the same CDCs, the same Banking ind witch is throwing trillions, once again, as always, ignoring the people, all of the is somehow suddenly the ephifany of truth, huh.
I am NOT afraid of this uh… empidemic, it what comes after, that will be the shotstorm, the Corona is their tool.
The bonfire of total Ignorance, is their weapon of mass destruction, and this time I am afraid it works.
he looks like he got his head kicked in at high school too many times…
Forget the pandemic “Live Exercise” (as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unwittingly exposed recently). The real pandemic is, the huge “con-job” of fear and compliancy, inflicted on the World by the USA!
The irony is, the number of commentators who should know better, are in fact manipulating, inflating or exaggerating statistics, to give substance to a worldwide ‘phony crisis.’ Every “expert” out there is, playing the game of grabbing one of many annual “flu virus’s”, calling it COVID-19 and running with it. All the while, the real story is being missed.
For you “Gringo’s” (I’m in New Zealand), the post-911 “Department of Homeland Security”, was always about, a transitional move toward a “Permanent US Police State.” That’s fully underway, with ‘lock-down’ being the first stage.
The admirable response from China and Russia to this ‘phony crisis’, has been to treat the “Live Exercise” like the real thing. Their worldwide military airlift deliveries of ‘real’ medicines and ‘real’ COVID-19 test-kits as well as medical teams are demonstrating, the ineptness of the “West” to deal with a real crisis when it arises in the future.
Incredibly, no one seems to want to run with the Mike Pompeo “Live Exercise” ‘faux pas.’ Is that because it doesn’t fit the narrative you’ve all made up your minds about?
he’s getting a kickback somewhere…
Looks like he thinks culling a few hundred million humans is a good idea.
Uhm, that is very old news..
Search on the founder off the roundtable(cfr these days) organistion and political zl0nism and you will find that it is actually a century old news..
archive. org have ALL their books for free, some of them you might have to open an account to read but it is worth it.
The recent, actual appearance of significant world wide numbers of cases of COVID-19 was prefaced by a ridiculous amount of TV media coverage of “imminent doom” that was tiresome back in December.
That in itself is enough for anybody, who has been following the continuity of world-wide slaughter of innocents by the NATO countries over the last 19 years, to take a highly skeptical opinion about anything that the “governments” of those countries say.
I don’t like the author’s tone.
But it is from The Telegraph, a rather stridently ideological publication.
Professor Ferguson may have made errors, but this statement of his is no error: ‘Professor Ferguson said anyone who thought the coronavirus was akin to seasonal flu was “living in cloud cuckoo land.”’
That much is accurate. For those who are seriously stricken with it, it a terrible, ugly disease, burning out lungs and throat.
We have the “mercy” that most who are positive do not suffer that fate.
It does seem though that no one has a good grasp of all the numbers.
“a terrible, ugly disease, burning out lungs and throat.” seems to have been quite easily overcome as shown by the very high “recovery” numbers compared with the “deaths” out of the classified “cases”.
We have never seen any governments rushing to introduce draconian measures against those who are behind the continued support of the massive figures of ‘deaths” still being caused by the motor industry, the alcohol industry and the war machine industry.
Ferguson is a moron….in love with himself. He should move to California where they will embrace him with open arms for his stupid ideas….they always need more stupid ideas in California you know.
I would inject that little weasel with every disease he was wrong about
What is the point of such highly aggressive words?
Well it gave me something to chuckle about.
perhaps it is that proven liars and subhuman animals(rentier class) is pushing us into a ditch on the words from chosen useful idiots like ferguson? idk, all i know is the tree off freedom and humanity have not been watered for generations in our so called civilisation and we desperatly need a change off so called “elites”.
Hezbollah/resistance axis have shown us the way, we should learn from them.
these people trying to destroy the economy and kill scores of people and you worried about my words? it is azzholes like you that think they can stop these demons from hell by reasoning with them
Have to agree with your comments Al. Such people need the reality to be bashed into their brains. No pussyfooting around.
Amen bro we are in this mess cause of azzholes who think they are genius’s . we are doomed cause for 50 years no one was allowed to rip into these scumbags
More like defensive words seeing how many people he got locked up.
When you are debating an issue – in this case, the danger (or not) of COVID-19 – at least framing the issue correctly is key.
WHETHER IT IS THE ORDINARY FLU OR COVID-19, THE ISSUE IS NOT JUST THE NATURAL MORTALITY RATE – % DEATHS WHEN HOSPITAL CARE EXISTS – BUT *EFFECTIVE* MORTALITY RATE – % DEATHS IF HOSPITAL CARE DETERIORATES.
The question then everyone should be asking is not just how many people are dying now (despite hospital care), but how many people are being hospitalized and in ICU because of COVID-19 and surviving and whether the rate of this increase can be managed or not.
If this surge – which also occurs time-to-time in flus – can be successfully managed or is brief so that people who would have otherwise survived don’t die, great. Not a bigger concern than normal.
But if the net rate of necessary hospitalizations (numbers in – numbers out) quickly overwhelms a city/region/country’s hospitals, that’s a danger since those needing hospitalizations may not find any space thus turning even a potentially treatable disease into a dangerous one (like it happens with other diseases in countries with poor healthcare).
So is there evidence that COVID-19 can overwhelm the hospital system? Yes, from all the hotspots around the world. And all this *despite* what the editors would say are unnecessary measures.
In New York, among confirmed COVID-19 cases:
– 20% are hospitalized
– 5 % are in ICUs
– average time in ICU is 11-14 days (vs 3-4 days for the flu)
– 2% are dying.
– ventilators and PPEs have run/are running out depending on hospital
All this despite, lockdowns; despite increasing production of ventilators and PPEs.
Now I have no idea what the real agenda of the editors of this site are. Perhaps they are strict darwinists who support unnecessary deaths – not just to the old (so they died a couple of years early, tough!) – but to younger ones who would almost surely have survived hospitalization if they had access to it. Hey if your immune system couldn’t handle a little virus, you deserve to die! (In New York then that’s ~20% of those seeking hospital care or perhaps the 5% needing ICU). Indeed this approach can be extended to every disease. Shut down heathcare. Let the strong survive and the weak perish!
Ironically this is precisely the philosophy of the Empire the editors so strenuously claim to oppose.
Pick a lane!