Did erroneus mathematical models panic us all into global lockdown?

alanB

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The first time I heard about this virus in December last year, I just shrugged, it sounded similar to the previous SARS Virus, which while being serious, was not a cause of global economic suicide, nor a sufficient reason for our government to award itself dictatorial powers and start dismantling all our democratic rights and freedoms, in which we all become potential criminals for trying to live an ordinary life.

But then I listened to a respected specialist on a podcast (can't remember which now) who compared this virus to the 1918 Spanish Flu.

Now that alarmed me! I have read first hand accounts of that pandemic and it was horrific! 50-100m people are thought to have died within 6 months of the second wave rolling around the world, at a time when the world population was about 1.8bn, and people traveled a lot less.

If you scale that up to our levels, then that would be equivalent of 250-500m people dying in modern times!

So when it became apparent, that the virus had not been contained, that it was sweeping the globe, when reports from Italy sounded like a war zone, refrigerated trucks were lined up outside New York hospitals because their morgues were full, well it did seem then that we were on the same path as the Spanish Flu.

For that reason, I completely supported the initial steps taken by our government.

I heard of two mathematical models which predicted quite high death tolls in various countries (in the 100's of thousands, which admittedly were still not in the millions in comparison to the Spanish Flu), but were large enough to warrant taking drastic action. The one model was published by the Imperial College of London, the other by the Washington State University - both predicted 100's of thousands of deaths, in the Washington State case that was with full mitigation action applied (ie with full lock down etc applied).

Now it's easy to be critical in hindsight - and I'm not trying to be smart here - to be honest I still do not know how to apply a reasonable interpretation to the situation. But the fact remains that none of these models have been remotely close to predicting what we have actually experienced. Thankfully the numbers have been orders of magnitude less!

But one would have thought that those managing those models would adjust the predictions based on real life feedback of actual data gained?

This article provides perhaps a much better explanation of how to reconcile what we actually are experiencing, to the model predictions:

My question is did we just kill the world economy, severely damage our own SA economy, unleash a power hungry central socialist style committee which has suspended the proper rule of law and the constitution (and those committee members are showing all the signs of wanting to cling to that self awarded power), put hundreds of thousands of people into financial ruin, all because of some unfortunate mathematical models?

If so, why are the authorities not all quickly breathing a sigh of relief, that the situation is no-where near as bad as we all first feared and then rapidly relaxing all the drastic steps they took?
 

rietrot

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No, it wasn't erroneous models, even though that did contribute. It was bad data out of china. Bad input data will screw with even a good model.
 

Geoff.D

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You are ignoring the panic generated by the WHO, who first played it down and then went beserk.

The article has been covered in other threads already:
Se this one as an example.
 
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Geoff.D

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The first time I heard about this virus in December last year, I just shrugged, it sounded similar to the previous SARS Virus, which while being serious, was not a cause of global economic suicide, nor a sufficient reason for our government to award itself dictatorial powers and start dismantling all our democratic rights and freedoms, in which we all become potential criminals for trying to live an ordinary life.

But then I listened to a respected specialist on a podcast (can't remember which now) who compared this virus to the 1918 Spanish Flu.

Now that alarmed me! I have read first hand accounts of that pandemic and it was horrific! 50-100m people are thought to have died within 6 months of the second wave rolling around the world, at a time when the world population was about 1.8bn, and people traveled a lot less.

If you scale that up to our levels, then that would be equivalent of 250-500m people dying in modern times!

So when it became apparent, that the virus had not been contained, that it was sweeping the globe, when reports from Italy sounded like a war zone, refrigerated trucks were lined up outside New York hospitals because their morgues were full, well it did seem then that we were on the same path as the Spanish Flu.

For that reason, I completely supported the initial steps taken by our government.

I heard of two mathematical models which predicted quite high death tolls in various countries (in the 100's of thousands, which admittedly were still not in the millions in comparison to the Spanish Flu), but were large enough to warrant taking drastic action. The one model was published by the Imperial College of London, the other by the Washington State University - both predicted 100's of thousands of deaths, in the Washington State case that was with full mitigation action applied (ie with full lock down etc applied).

Now it's easy to be critical in hindsight - and I'm not trying to be smart here - to be honest I still do not know how to apply a reasonable interpretation to the situation. But the fact remains that none of these models have been remotely close to predicting what we have actually experienced. Thankfully the numbers have been orders of magnitude less!

But one would have thought that those managing those models would adjust the predictions based on real life feedback of actual data gained?

This article provides perhaps a much better explanation of how to reconcile what we actually are experiencing, to the model predictions:

My question is did we just kill the world economy, severely damage our own SA economy, unleash a power hungry central socialist style committee which has suspended the proper rule of law and the constitution (and those committee members are showing all the signs of wanting to cling to that self awarded power), put hundreds of thousands of people into financial ruin, all because of some unfortunate mathematical models?

If so, why are the authorities not all quickly breathing a sigh of relief, that the situation is no-where near as bad as we all first feared and then rapidly relaxing all the drastic steps they took?
Not because of an unfortunate mathematical model. The model is what it is. It is the people who drive it that caused the panic and our useless ignorant government that has caused this mess.
 

rustypup

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For that reason, I completely supported the initial steps taken by our government.
Terrible. Terrible reasoning here. Just bad. Ignores historical data around coronavirus and refers to an event where treatment protocols were almost non-existent. The data out of China was more than sufficient to support the correct decisions - blaming our stupidity on this is just looking for an out.

The lock-down was a farking idiotic, irrational, reaction from the outset.

did we just kill the world economy, severely damage our own SA economy, unleash a power hungry central socialist style committee which has suspended the proper rule of law and the constitution (and those committee members are showing all the signs of wanting to cling to that self awarded power), put hundreds of thousands of people into financial ruin, all because of some unfortunate mathematical models?
Yes.

Instead of locking down those in the risk cohorts, we destroyed everything. Because social media, poor science education and rampant politicking all carry more weight than rationality.
 

The Trutherizer

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I have to question something from that article.

I quote: " To date, no nation we have noticed has seen peak daily deaths outside the range of 30-50 days from first death. And no developing country has seen cumulative deaths threaten the 200 per million level"

Yet if you look at the country currently on top of the pile in this pandemic, the US, which is a developed nation, has relatively high testing rates, and arguably better information gathering and statistics than any developing nation has a death rate of over 290 per million within their population already, and infection is not really slowing down much for the last month. Siting between 20k and 30k a day for that entire time - At least while I have checked up daily. This while the outbreak in the US started more than 50 days ago in March. The death rate there has been hovering in the 1000 - 2000 range for quite some time as well.

Also those cruise ships did implement pretty severe restrictions when the disease manifested there. So did Italy. Although of course not as severe as South Africa's response. So both the cruise ships and Italy are good case studies for results under lock-down conditions. Not for countries where no restrictions were put in place.

I can of course agree that the severity of many lock-down measures have been over the top knee-jerk reactions that may have done more harm than good in the long run. Public awareness campaigns, and limited restrictions could likely have done just as much good. SA no exception to this.
 

rietrot

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The way China over reacted to the Virus. Locking people in their houses, welding doors shut and having the army deliver food at one point, rushing to build more hospitals made it seem worse than what it was.

China's good data then made that reaction seem extremely effective, so its only natural to copy them if what they did worked.

Now that we are getting more reliable data it is clear that the Virus still spread even under lockdown conditions and isn't as deadly as initially thought.
 
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/dev/null

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It's like predicting the weather. A lot of decisions are made based on weather forecast on a daily basis. Those decisions become bad decisions when the weather doesn't follow the forecast.
 

alanB

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It's like predicting the weather. A lot of decisions are made based on weather forecast on a daily basis. Those decisions become bad decisions when the weather doesn't follow the forecast.
Good analogy - so my question framed in terms of that analogy, would be "if the weather forecast was that a force 10 storm was going to occur, and you duly prepared for that, but on the day it turned out just to be a bit windy and maybe a bit chilly etc. would you still behave as if it were a hurricane?"

In other words, surely you would adapt to reality as it turned out?

So if you shuttered down your house and hid in a bunker, surely you would come out when it turned out a lot milder than first thought?

I have no problems with the erroneous predictions made in haste in times if crisis, people did the best they could, with the data and facts they had - but what is missing now, is an adaption to reality as it turned out. If you see what I mean. Especially given the harm the precautions are causing.
 
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FNfal

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This whole corona virus thing has been a fiasco from the beginning China lied, then WHO messed it up , Neil Ferguson came with his BS model and the press ran with the sensationalist reporting, that forced governments in to the fiasco that is lock down without proper figures
We promptly thew the baby out with the bathwater .
South Africa is in a world of hurt they just do not realise it yet and not from the virus .
 
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smc

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Not that I particularly want defend anyone's mathematical models, but the article is plainly completely BS. It claims that the authors' "PANDA" hypothesis is that "Deaths exponentiate only for days". South Africa has been on a near perfect exponential curve for 2 months now, with no sign of a slow down.
 

Verde

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The one model was published by the Imperial College of London,
I posted the below elsewhere, but as you refer to the same study it relates to I decided to repost here.

The much derided Furgeson Imperial study was spot on, but at the same time it was way off.
Below the IFR in Spain is calculated using excess deaths up to 10/5/20 after which the death rate returned to normal.

Using the results of the antibody tests conducted on more than 60000 people in Spain between 27-4 to 11/5 2020 the IFR can be calculated per age group.

1590236380609.png
Based on the seroprevalence of antibodies the IFR for Covid-19 in Spain during this wave was 1.33%, the assumptions made in the Imperial study predicted 1.38% for Spain.

So in total Furgeson was spot on, but the IFR per age group was way off.

I very much doubt if the enforced lockdowns worldwide would have happened if governments were advised that the disease was as lethal as a bad Flu season to the under 65 age group.

This seroprevelance study is ongoing, and I expect the future reports to report higher incidence because the test was conducted in the last 2 weeks when deaths were still elevated, but it takes up to 3 weeks before AB show up in test results. So the true IFR is probably lower.

The most incredible thing on that chart is the fact that 67% of excess deaths in Spain were in the over 85 age group.
 

Geoff.D

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Not that I particularly want defend anyone's mathematical models, but the article is plainly completely BS. It claims that the authors' "PANDA" hypothesis is that "Deaths exponentiate only for days". South Africa has been on a near perfect exponential curve for 2 months now, with no sign of a slow down.
You are not interpreting that sentence correctly. Re=read their hypothesis explanation, the original, not any paraphrased version by someone else.
 

/dev/null

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Good analogy - so my question framed in terms of that analogy, would be "if the weather forecast was that a force 10 storm was going to occur, and you duly prepared for that, but on the day it turned out just to be a bit windy and maybe a bit chilly etc. would you still behave as if it were a hurricane?"

In other words, surely you would adapt to reality as it turned out?

So if you shuttered down your house and hid in a bunker, surely you would come out when it turned out a lot milder than first thought?

I have no problems with the erroneous predictions made in haste in times if crisis, people did the best they could, with the data and facts they had - but what is missing now, is an adaption to reality as it turned out. If you see what I mean. Especially given the harm the precautions are causing.
The new forecasting is showing that the big storm is still coming. This new forecast will probably get revised into other doomsday forecasts and so on until we have forecasts that say "storm is over". Because nobody really knows what's going on, the only thing they can do is to rely on these forecasts and make decisions based on them and hope for the best.
 

Geoff.D

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I posted the below elsewhere, but as you refer to the same study it relates to I decided to repost here.

The much derided Furgeson Imperial study was spot on, but at the same time it was way off.
Below the IFR in Spain is calculated using excess deaths up to 10/5/20 after which the death rate returned to normal.

Using the results of the antibody tests conducted on more than 60000 people in Spain between 27-4 to 11/5 2020 the IFR can be calculated per age group.

View attachment 844821
Based on the seroprevalence of antibodies the IFR for Covid-19 in Spain during this wave was 1.33%, the assumptions made in the Imperial study predicted 1.38% for Spain.

So in total Furgeson was spot on, but the IFR per age group was way off.

I very much doubt if the enforced lockdowns worldwide would have happened if governments were advised that the disease was as lethal as a bad Flu season to the under 65 age group.

This seroprevelance study is ongoing, and I expect the future reports to report higher incidence because the test was conducted in the last 2 weeks when deaths were still elevated, but it takes up to 3 weeks before AB show up in test results. So the true IFR is probably lower.

The most incredible thing on that chart is the fact that 67% of excess deaths in Spain were in the over 85 age group.
It is a bit pointless for smaller little details to be spot on in a model such as this when the final result is a complete miss. Very few people look at the small print and certainly, no politician ever does. So, while you may very well be correct here, the complete and utter failure of the Imperial model to guide the politicians correctly is the only thing that will count and go down in history.
 

Geoff.D

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What is absolutely clear to me is that our government (and many other governments), led by the nose by the WHO circus band, immediately jumped on to the panic horse. They FAILED to even bother to get to people that really are able to provide global oversight (ie, the insurance industry as one example, there are others) of what actions should be taken to protect the country as a whole. Instead, ONLY the views of the health experts were taken into account. And then, unfortunately, ALL faith was put into a model already known to have failed before.

The result?

Instead, stupidly naive phrases took hold of the public imagination:

"Flatten the Curve" -- a mathematical term with a specific meaning became the buzz words BUT for the completely wrong reason.

"Protect the health of our people and our lives, we can fix the economy later" -- probably the worst piece of BS to ever come out of the mouth of our President. As bad, if not worse than the previous President's failure to be able to articulate numbers.

For centuries dating back to biblical times, the way to handle epidemics has been to lock up the sick and protect the weak, infirm and vulnerable, for 40 days and 40 nights. I hope the irony of this does not escape all those deriding the timing of 30 - 50 days tabled by some critical thinkers.

NOT lock up the healthy, and push them closer to becoming the weak infirm and vulnerable.

And before everyone jumps on my back, this does NOT mean reasonable strategies should not have been taken, such as travel restrictions, quarantining, wearing masks, limiting contact, etc.

But when we started to see things like preventing people from going outdoors, restricting exercise, forcing people into groups by restriction movement hours, limiting the supply of goods, preventing people from partaking in their vices, was and is the absolute height of stupidity and MUST stop with immediate effect.

Now, we have a new problem, having shut down everything, we can't just start up again, a phased start-up MUST be implemented to prevent a complete collapse, like it or not.

Just like any power station engineer knows, the startup has to be controlled otherwise a second wave WILL be the result.
 
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smc

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You are not interpreting that sentence correctly. Re=read their hypothesis explanation, the original, not any paraphrased version by someone else.
I'm looking at the table in the original article. That's what it says.
 

TEXTILE GUY

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This whole corona virus thing has been a fiasco from the beginning China lied, then WHO messed it up , Neil Ferguson came with his BS model and the press ran with the sensationalist reporting, that forced governments in to the fiasco that is lock down without proper figures
We promptly thew the baby out with the bathwater .
South Africa is in a world of hurt they just do not realise it yet and not from the virus .
Yeah, I am with you on this .....

Any further studies and stories leading down rabbit holes are just OTT, but its an interesting thing to watch.
Seems the world wants to get going - a second out break in some little hovel in China made page 2 news.

In SA, you guys are still stressing and fussing while the ROW is opening up, moving along ...... talking futures.

What I hear from folks back home is that some places may be on a nebulous level 3, others on a 4 and maybe some on a 5. There's arguments over the rules, over the numbers .... and lets be honest, the suburbs and the townships dealt with this VERY differently.
 
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