Why UK coronavirus predictions could be wrong REVEALED

Model predictions based on coronavirus in the UK without solid data can be over-speculate and “open to gross over-interpretation”, according to experts. It comes as many point out the pitfalls of the modelling tradition in science, and how uncritical reliance on their findings can lead both the media and public astray.

Oxford University recently released a model, which proposed that half the UK had already been infected by COVID-19.

Professor of theoretical epidemiology, Sunetra Gupta, led the study that revealed the conceptual infection rate across the country.

It suggests that the virus was already circulating by mid-January, around two weeks before the UK reported its first case, and a month before its first death.

The research also suggested that less than one thousand of those with COVID-19 became ill enough to need treatment in hospital, with the vast majority developing mild symptoms or none at all.

This means the virus could have had enough time to spread quickly and thoroughly, with many people effectively acquiring immunity immediately.

Yet, the scenario assumed that only a tiny fraction of people were at risk of serious illness.

More importantly at this point – the study has not yet been published or peer-reviewed, yet was quickly picked up by media up and down the country.

But as infections disease modellers and public health experts – including the authors of the paper themselves – have pointe out, the model was entirely based on assumptions rather than solid data.

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No one really knows what fraction of the public is at risk of serious illness.

The study instead demonstrates how several differing scenarios can result in the same pattern of deaths, and emphasises the need for serological testing in order to find antibodies against the virus, and discover which scenario we are in.

One of the Oxford researchers involved with the study, Paul Klenerman, called the figure of those it estimated to have already contracted the virus – 68 percent of the population – the most extreme result.

He explained to The Guardian: “There is another extreme which is that only a tiny proportion have been exposed”.

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The true figure, of which no one knows, is likely to be somewhere in between, he said.

As the publication puts it, the true number of people infected is either very large, very small, or middling.

Prof Klenerman said: “We need much more data about who has been exposed to inform policy.”

The Oxford model wasn’t entirely bad as it positively emphasises the need for serological testing in the UK.

It wasn’t, however, useful for grasping the scale of the pandemic in the UK.

Professor James Wood, a researchers in infection dynamic at Cambridge University, said: “The paper does substantially over-speculate and is open to gross over-interpretation by others.”

Meanwhile, in the UK, 465 people have been confirmed as having died from the virus, a further 9,529 have been infected.

n a bid to slow the virus’ spread, on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a series of stringent measures intended to up the ante against COVID-19.

This included urging everyone to stay at home, with gatherings of more than two people banned.

The ExCel exhibition centre in East London has been transformed into a giant make shift hospital.

It will soon make space for 4,000 patients, though many are beginning to question how long the government had planned to erect such a venue, and why the public were not told of the urgency sooner.

Half a million people have since signed up to volunteer for the NHS, with Mr Johnson said they could play an “absolutely crucial” role in helping to alleviate mounting pressures on the health service.

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