We are publishing in full an article by Christopher Snowden in the Tepegraph as we agree with the sentiments-see below
After predicting that 100,000 Covid cases a day were “almost inevitable” if the Government went ahead with “freedom day” in England, Professor Neil Ferguson later admitted that he had got it wrong, but his words were telling. “I’m quite happy to be wrong if it’s wrong in the right direction,” he said.
He must be a happy man because he and his fellow modellers could hardly have been more wrong this year. Time and again, they produce a range of scenarios with such broad margins of error that almost any outcome short of the dead rising from their graves seems to be covered. And yet they still manage to be wrong – and always wrong in the same direction. Always too pessimistic.
Remember when reopening the schools in March was going to lead to a surge in infections? Didn’t happen. Remember the claim that October would see 7,000 Covid-related hospital admissions a day in England unless the Government brought in a “basket of measures”? Admittedly, 7,000 was at the top end of their projections and Sage said it was “highly unlikely”, but even their most optimistic scenario projected 2,000 admissions per day. In the end, October came and went without admissions ever reaching 1,000.
Back in February, modellers at Warwick University projected at least 1,000 deaths a day if the Government removed all restrictions in July. Even their “best we can manage” scenario – in which “freedom day” was delayed until the start of September – led to 750 deaths a day. In reality, there hasn’t been a day since March when it reached 150.
It is not just the modellers. When the infection rate plummeted in July, ITV’s political editor Robert Peston claimed to have been told by a government source that people who are reinfected with the virus are not included in the daily case numbers. This, he said, was “profoundly troubling” and “undermines confidence” in the idea that cases were tumbling. After breezily tweeting this on a Sunday morning, he proceeded to ignore all replies from experts telling him that reinfections make up less than one per cent of the total.
There was no apology because there was no threat of comeuppance. The people who falsely claimed that herd immunity had been reached last summer became laughing stocks, but those who have been consistently “wrong in the right direction” (i.e. pro-lockdown) have lost no status whatsoever. The Today programme still has them on speed dial.
It is not as if pessimism comes without consequences. Ferguson’s prediction led Keir Starmer to oppose the lifting of restrictions in July. So-called Independent Sage called for the reintroduction of Step 2 of the roadmap (no meeting indoors). Thankfully, the Government ignored these demands, but what if it hadn’t? It would have cost the economy billions and ruined what was left of the summer.
With the same people now lobbying to ruin the winter, let’s keep their track record in mind. The “direction” in which they erred isn’t important. What matters is that they were wrong.