Epidemiologist Behind Famous Wuhan Virus Model Lowers Original Projection
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who gained international attention for creating the highly-cited Imperial College London Wuhan virus model which The New York Times has referenced and has played a major role in influencing governments worldwide, put forward a significantly downgraded projection of the expected death toll on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
According to Ferguson’s original model, 2.2 million people were expected to die in the United States and 500,000 in the United Kingdom from the Wuhan Virus if no action was taken to slow the spread of the virus and soften the curve. The model estimated significantly fewer deaths if lockdown measures were implemented.
Following one day of mandatory lockdowns in the U.K., Ferguson is now putting forward downgraded estimates. He credited the lockdown policies, but also revealed that far more people have contracted the virus than his team expected.
Ferguson clarified, “I should admit, we’ve always been sensitive in the analysis in the modeling to a variety of levels or values to those quantities. What we’ve been seeing, though, in Europe in the last week or two is a rate of growth of the epidemic which was faster than we expected from early data in China. And so we are revising our quotes, our central best estimate of the reproduction… something more, a little bit above of the order of three or a little bit above rather than about 2.5.” He added, “the current values are still within the wide range of values which modeling groups [unintelligible] we should have been looking at previously.”
A higher rate of transmission than expected signifies that more people have contracted the virus than previously estimated. When the number of individuals with the Wuhan Virus is divided by the number of deaths, the mortality rate for the virus falls.
According to a report from the New Scientist on March 25, 2020, 20,000 people or fewer will die from the Wuhan virus based on the new lockdown procedures and the new projections. Hospitals are also expected to be able to take in Wuhan Virus patients without problems.
Ferguson’s modifications came days following Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta critique of the professor’s model.
“I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” Gupta declared, according to the Financial Times.
Professor Gupta was in charge of a team of researchers at Oxford in a modeling study which hints at the virus being invisibly spread for at least a month earlier than expected. The study concluded that up to half of the people in the United Kingdom have already contracted the Wuhan Virus.
If Gupta’s model is accurate, fewer than one in a thousand who’ve contracted the Wuhan Virus become sick enough require hospitalization, which leaves the overwhelming majority with mild cases or free of symptoms of the virus.
Ferguson made a statement on social media on Thursday to “clear up confusion” about his modified estimates:
I think it would be helpful if I cleared up some confusion that has emerged in recent days. Some have interpreted my evidence to a UK parliamentary committee as indicating we have substantially revised our assessments of the potential mortality impact of COVID-19. This is not the case. Indeed, if anything, our latest estimates suggest that the virus is slightly more transmissible than we previously thought. Our lethality estimates remain unchanged. My evidence to Parliament referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place. Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand).
1/4 – I think it would be helpful if I cleared up some confusion that has emerged in recent days. Some have interpreted my evidence to a UK parliamentary committee as indicating we have substantially revised our assessments of the potential mortality impact of COVID-19.
— neil_ferguson (@neil_ferguson) March 26, 2020