The March 16 report by Imperial College epidemiologist Neil Ferguson is credited (or blamed) with causing the U.K. to lock down and contributing to the domino effect of global lockdowns. The model has since come under intense criticism for being “totally unreliable and a buggy mess.”
This is the same Neil Ferguson who in 2005 predicted 200 million could die from the bird flu. Total deaths over the last 15 years turned out to be 455. This is the same Neil Ferguson who in 2009 predicted that 65,000 people could die in the U.K. from the swine flu. The final number ended up around 392. Now, in 2020, he predicted that 500,000 British would die from coronavirus.
His deeply flawed model led the United States to fear over 2 million deaths and was used to justify locking down nearly the entire nation. Dr. Ferguson is a character of Shakespearean drama and tragedy. His March 17 presentation to British elites on the dire need to take action ironically may have infected Boris Johnson and other top British officials, as Mr. Ferguson himself tested positive for COVID-19 two days later. Then in May he resigned in disgrace after he broke his own quarantine rules to meet clandestinely with a married woman.
But I don’t place most of the blame on people like Ferguson. If you are a hammer everything looks like a nail. I blame government leaders for failing to surround themselves with diverse viewpoints and to think critically for themselves.
Politicians claim lockdowns were the cause of fewer deaths
It would be highly embarrassing to force citizens to quarantine themselves only to later admit it was all a colossal blunder, so it is easier for politicians and modelers to claim the lower death rates were based on the lockdowns themselves. It was a success!
But several inconvenient thorns keep bursting that narrative - and none larger than Sweden, the only Western country not to lock down its citizens. Sweden never closed borders, restaurants, businesses, or primary schools. The only legal action officials took was to ban events that entail crowds larger than 50 people.
One of the most well-known and respected models in the United States is from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and is commonly cited by the White House. Since the IHME model accounts for lockdowns and social distancing, or lack thereof, they should be validated by their predictions on Sweden.
Below is a screenshot of the IHME model for Sweden taken on May 3, along with actual results (black line). The model predicted up to 2,800 daily deaths within 11 days and a final death total as high as 75,000 if Sweden didn’t enact strict social distancing measures.