POSTED BY: UNREDACTED STAFF MARCH 3, 2022
Grim modelling that over-egged the Omicron wave failed to ‘accurately predict the numbers’ because Brits changed their behaviour and models failed to factor that in. When the ultra-transmissible variant struck, SAGE scientists warned that deaths could peak at 6,000 a day, sparking calls for another lockdown.
But in reality, fatalities only reached 300 a day, a quarter of the levels seen last winter. Professor Graham Medley, who chairs a modelling group feeding into SAGE, told MPs it was almost impossible to predict human behaviour and that it was his job to consider pessimistic outcomes.
‘The epidemic is dynamic,’ he said. ‘People’s responses to the situation in March 2020 were very different to those in November 2020 and very different again in January 2021.’
Professor Medley, based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added: ‘The modelling is there to understand the process and what’s going on. We know we cannot accurately predict the numbers but we can give insight into the processes that determine the outcomes.’
Professor Medley, who heads up the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Modelling (SPI-M), was speaking to MPs in the Science and Technology Committee yesterday. Another expert who gave evidence to the Commons committee said he feared the incorrect models could prompt Britons to ignore warnings in future.
Cambridge University epidemiologist Dr Raghib Ali said: ‘My concern is next time there is a new variant doctors will go on TV and say “this is bad” but people will say, “you got a lot wrong last time, we’re not going to listen”, and that’s very dangerous.’