PROFESSOR Neil Ferguson has been “overconfident” in his claims Covid will be behind us by September, a leading statistician has said.
Nate Silver said there were too many variables in the pandemic for anyone to be sure of its outcome.
Mr Silver, who correctly predicted the results of the 2008 US presidential election, called out the expert – dubbed Professor Lockdown – after he said the worst of the pandemic should be left behind by September or October.
He also noted the epidemiologist’s previous warning earlier in the month which said it was “almost inevitable” we would soon see 100,000 cases a day.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Silver said: “Covid cases have fallen to 33,000 per day (7-day average) since Neil Ferguson, perhaps the UK’s most prominent epidemiologist, said it was ‘almost inevitable’ that cases would hit 100,000 a day.
“I don’t care that the prediction is wrong, I’m sure this stuff is hard to predict. It’s that he’s consistently so overconfident.
“Now he says he’s ‘positive’ the pandemic will be over by October. Well, probably. But there are downside risks: new variants, waning immunity, etc.”
Earlier today Neil Ferguson told Radio 4’s Today show that we are “not completely out of the woods” but “the equation has fundamentally changed”.
He said: “The effect of the vaccines has been huge in reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death.
“And I think I’m positive that by late September/October time we will be looking back at most of the pandemic.
“We will still have Covid with us, we will still have people dying from Covid but we put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.”
It comes as:
But political science author Prof Philip Tetlock agreed with Mr Silver, adding: “When smart forecasters are consistently overconfident, start suspecting they’re not playing a pure-accuracy game (e.g. publicity or policy-advocacy games).”
Professor Ferguson thinks the plateau in cases the UK is currently experiencing after a spike is due to Euro 2020 ending and the warm weather leading to outdoor socialising and open windows.
On his grim prediction of 100,000 cases a day, he said: “I think it’s too early to tell, the reductions we’ve seen at the moment occurred really before the unlocking took place and we won’t see for several more weeks the effect of the unlocking.
“That said I’m quite happy to be wrong if it’s wrong in the right direction, if case numbers stay low that’d be very good news.”
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Yesterday 24,950 new cases were recorded, down from 29,173 on Sunday, and 31,795 on Saturday.
In total there has been a drop of 46 per cent in the last week.
Professor Lawrence Young, a specialist in molecular oncology at Warwick University told The Sun the fall in numbers could be due to a drop in testing.
He said: “One thing that is a concern is that school children were being tested twice a week with lateral flow tests, and added to the figures.”
He warned: “It is still within the realms of possibility that we could hit 100,000 a day in the next couple of months – we still have a highly transmissible variant circulating.
“The virus can have fast doubling times. It’s a seesaw effect, balancing different things and it will all depend on how people are mixing.”
Prof Young says the next 10-14 days will be a “critical period”: “The hope is that it’s a downturn but it’s a case of waiting and seeing.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Throughout the pandemic we have always said it’s encouraging when cases are falling.”
But he added: “We should still expect to see a rise in case numbers given the move to Step 4 last week”.
“The Prime Minister thinks we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Health experts are optimistic that the third wave, driven by the Delta variant, may have now peaked.
It’s understood ministers are “trying not to get too excited” about the drop – but there’s now “confidence” that things are heading in the right direction, Politico reports.