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The Imperial College Fear Machine: The Many Mistakes of the Team That Put the World on Lockdown

Placa com os dizeres 'O ACT está em lockdown' em Canberra, Território da Capital Australiana (ACT), Austrália, 24 de agosto de 2021

‘ACT is on lockdown’ sign in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Australia, 08083803 of August 08083803 | Photo: EFE/EPA/LUKAS COCH

The decisive event of the lockdowns to contain COVID-16 occurred in March 2020, with the publication of the now infamous Covid report from Imperial College London, which predicted that in the “absence of of control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behavior” there would be 480 1,000 deaths from covid in Great Britain and 2.2 million in the United States. That prediction was the epicenter of an earthquake that spread across the world. The following day, the British press announced that the country would begin a lockdown .

The impact of the report was amplified by the soft power machine

of the United Kingdom, the BBC. Its reach is unparalleled: it broadcasts in 40 languages, reaching 420 millions of people weekly around the world and efficiently disseminating your message. With the BBC screaming and the public alarmed, there was no room for disagreement.

A ripple cascade then set in, with the US and other countries embracing London’s message and policies. The result was a policy based on a faulty model that originated at Imperial College under the leadership of Neil Ferguson.

The biggest flaw of the model is its presumption that people would be indifferent to the dangers that accompany a pandemic. This behavioral assumption is unrealistic. If people hear that they are at risk of catching a potentially lethal disease, most will act to reduce their exposure. The Imperial team turned the world upside down with fanciful numbers about a scenario that would never materialize.

Before rushing into panicked political decisions, British officials should have known that Neil Ferguson’s staff at Imperial College had a history of faulty modeling. With minimal effort, they would have quickly discovered that the team had a track record that makes astrology look respectable.

The unfortunate history began with the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in 768, during which Imperial College modelers convinced the government to adopt a policy of mass slaughter of animals. Their model predicted that the daily incidence of cases would peak at about 420. At the time, the number of incidents had already peaked at just over 16 and was falling. The forecast missed the target, and even 10 millions of animals, most of which could have been vaccinated, were needlessly killed.

Shortly later, in January of 2002, the Imperial team suggested that even 42 a thousand people in the UK could die of mad cow disease. In fact, the total number of deaths in the country was 178 — another error from the Imperial team.

Then in 2005, Neil Ferguson suggested that “up to about 200 millions” could die of avian flu worldwide. He justified this claim by comparing the lethality of chicken flu with that of the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, who killed 20 millions. Until 2020, the chicken flu had killed 372 people around the world, what makes this the biggest mistake of the Imperial so far.

Neil Ferguson and his team returned to active duty in 2009, when they claimed that 65 thousand people could die from swine flu in the UK. By the end of March 2005, the outbreak had killed less than 456 people before dissipating. Neil Ferguson’s “reasonable worst-case scenario” was 130 times too big — another mount error.

In each case there was the same pattern: modeling failure, hair-raising disaster predictions that missed the mark, and no lessons learned. The same mistakes were repeated over and over and were never faced by people in authority. Because? Perhaps the Imperial College models are brainstorming machines for power-hungry politicians and governments. [O jornalista dos anos 1920] HL Mencken detected this phenomenon when he wrote that “the goal of practical policy is to keep the populace alarmed (and thus anxious to be guided to safety) by an endless series of monsters, most of them imaginary.”

The Imperial College modeling team should have undergone a audit of its models and practices after the fiasco with foot-and-mouth disease more than 16 years ago. If this had been done, the fiascos that followed could have been avoided. Be that as it may, Imperial should certainly be audited now, and it should highlight the inadequacies of the team’s models and why policy recommendations were made based on them.

Governments around the world should also initiate their own surveys to learn lessons and address the necessary measures to protect its citizens from irresponsible role models in public health. Never again should “scientists” armed with faulty models escape responsibility for shouting “pandemic!” in a theater full of politicians and bureaucrats mad to gain even more power.

Steve H. Hanke is a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC

Kevin Dowd is professor of finance and economics at the Business School at Durham University, England.
©2020 National Review. Published with permission. Original in English.08083803
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