Scientists have questioned whether the UK could actually see 50,000 new Covid-19 infections per day by next month, as projected by the government's scientific advisor, who put the worst-case scenario on a terrifying graph.
Sir Patrick Vallance said yesterday that he believes the UK epidemic is doubling every seven days, claiming that if "nothing is done", new cases could increase exponentially in a month. In his televised address to the nation, he warned that there could be 200 deaths a day by mid-November, but stressed that there are many unknowns behind these surprising projections.
However, experts have criticized the "implausible" claim, insisting that neither France nor Spain – the outbreaks of which the UK should fear – have not yet reached this level of infection despite a significant resurgence of the disease. Critics accused number 10 of trying to "scare" people ahead of Boris Johnson's grand reveal of stricter Covid control guidelines tonight.
Other scientists claimed Sir Patrick and Professor Chris Whitty, who appeared next to him, "misused" data, said it was "almost certain" that cases would not double for long every seven days, and claimed that the projections were im Compare "bleak" looks to the truth when mid-October arrives.
Professor David Paton, an industrial economist at the University of Nottingham, suggested that the numbers could warrant investigation by the Bureau of Statistics Regulations, which regulates the accuracy of the data made available to the public.
If the UK followed the trends in these two countries, cases would be 10,000 a day by next month. However, if, as suggested, cases rose to 50,000 a day by next month, they would be six and three times higher, respectively, compared to France and Spain.
Only three countries in the world – India, the US, and Brazil – have ever reported more than 50,000 new cases a day. Scientists predict that more than 100,000 Britons were newly infected every day during the height of the crisis, which has not been proven due to a lack of tests. However, this was the time when the coronavirus could spread uncontrollably. The situation is now very different from March and April.
Sir Patrick himself admitted that "things are already there" that are likely to slow growth, with the rule of six introduced last week still having measurable effects. The Prime Minister is due to put forward a number of measures to fight the disease today, including imposing a curfew on pubs from 10pm on Thursday.
Sir Vallance said, “If, and that's a pretty big if, but if this goes on unabated and this grows and doubles every seven days … if this goes on you would have about 50,000 cases a day by mid-October. & # 39;
Sir Patrick Vallance said yesterday that he believes the epidemic is doubling every seven days, which would result in 200 deaths a day by mid-November. But numbers cast doubt on some of his calculations
Professor Whitty (right, Vallance left) appealed to the public's selflessness to abide by the rules and not just assume that they could “take their own risk”.
Sir Patrick emphasized yesterday that his sobering scenario of 500,000 cases a day was based on many unknowns. And it was by no means a "prediction".
However, the slides he presented, which have since become widely used, did not make this explicitly clear.
Professor David Paton, an industrial economist at the University of Nottingham, hit the forecast of 50,000 a day.
He wrote on Twitter last night: “It's hard not to be shocked anymore, but I find it hard to believe that @CMO_England (Professor Whitty) and @uksciencechief (Sir Patrick) presented such data. Given the severe political implications, I wonder if there is any reason to intervene @StatsRegulation (the Statistical Regulation Office). & # 39;
He noted that in France and Spain, which the UK has been compared to, cases double every three weeks rather than every one week.
If Britain follows the same path as France and Spain, Britain would be closer to 7,000 to 8,000 a day by mid-October than a staggering 50,000.
WHAT CLAIMS WERE PROFESSOR CHRIS WHITTY AND SIR PATRICK VALLANCE?
BY BEN SPENCER FOR THE DAILY MAIL
WHAT YOU SAID: The number of deaths could reach 200 a day by mid-November
WHAT IT MEANS: This suggestion is more of an illustration than a prediction. But even if such rates occurred, how would that death toll compare? It would be far lower than April deaths, which often rose above 1,100 a day. Influenza and pneumonia combined caused an average of 430 deaths per day over the past five years. Cancer kills 450 per day, dementia 214, heart disease 174. That's not to say that 200 lives lost to Covid-19 isn't a tragedy, but given the steps required to prevent them – which will cost lives in itself – it's well worth it insert them in perspective.
WHAT YOU SAID: Failure to do so could result in 50,000 cases per day by mid-October
WHAT IT MEANS: That terrifying number – ten times what it was when the first wave peaked in April – made headlines last night. Sir Patrick Vallance presented a table of cases where the cases doubled every seven days. However, the use of the card was criticized last night. Although it was presented as a theoretical example only and not a definitive model of what will happen, it was the only scenario offered. Critics pointed out that if we are to follow the path of France and Spain, the daily cases will likely be closer to 10,000 in three weeks.
WHAT YOU SAID: It's a six month problem
WHAT IT MEANS: Professor Chris Whitty said the "seasons are against us" – and we have to "deal with it together" by spring. He added, "We need to break unnecessary household connections because this is how this virus is transmitted." He also called for restraint, stressing that people who break the rules are taking a risk on behalf of everyone else & # 39; . In other words, get ready for a long, tough winter, follow the rules – and forget about Christmas with the family.
WHAT YOU SAID: A balance needs to be struck between protecting the NHS and protecting the economy
WHAT IT MEANS: Professor Whitty admitted that new restrictions will come at a terrible price. There is a "very difficult balance" between preventing the NHS from becoming overwhelmed and locking it down that would lead to unemployment, poverty and disadvantage. Such economic devastation would have its own "long-term health effects".
WHAT YOU SAID: Science will eventually ride to salvation
WHAT IT MEANS: Sir Patrick said some doses of an effective Covid vaccine may be available before the end of the year and mass vaccination is expected to start next spring. He said whatever approach works for a vaccine – and there are four main strategies around the world – the government will have access to one that works.
WHAT YOU SAID: Doctors have learned to treat this more effectively
WHAT IT MEANS: A bright light in the middle of the darkness. Official figures show that the death rate among Covid patients in intensive care units fell by a fifth between March and June – mainly because doctors were able to treat the virus better. Add to this the discovery that cheap steroids like dexamethasone improve survival rates and suddenly the results look much better for patients. However, it is still the case that every third patient who goes to the intensive care unit with coronavirus dies – meaning this is still a very serious illness.
He said the 50,000 a day would be at least three times the rate currently in Spain or France.
Professor Paton told MailOnline: "It seems like a very strange scenario, it is not based on any particular modeling as far as I can tell."
"If you look at the past few days, cases have been going down rather than going up. This does not seem to be a basis for choosing this" every seven days "doubling.
“It (also) seems strange to me to decide to compare it with France and Spain. There are other countries they could have looked at where cases have doubled every three weeks. Nobody knows what will happen to cases in the UK.
"Do you really think we have five to six times more cases than France?"
Sir Patrick made the warning based on the epidemic's current doubling time of eight days, according to Imperial College London's official REACT study earlier this month, which looked at the results of mass tests through September 7th.
And the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which tracks the spread of the disease through random swab tests, says the number of cases in England nearly doubled between September 3 and 10, increasing from 3,200 new infections per day to 6,000 is.
However, it took two weeks for the official number of cases found in positive tests to double – from a daily average of 1,812 on Sunday September 6th to 3,679 yesterday, September 20th.
Joshua Moon, a research fellow with the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, reiterated that the UK is taking steps to avoid this projection if nothing else is done.
He told MailOnline: “Spain and France have actually taken steps to reduce the transmission rate. Britain is again doing more to reduce transmission.
& # 39; The trend is based on a standard epidemic curve that is exponential rather than linear. The calculation is therefore based on the current doubling rate and not on the current rate of increase in cases.
& # 39; This is a more accurate representation of the spread of epidemics and the exponential growth of epidemics when left to their own devices.
& # 39; In an unchanged scenario, 50,000 cases per day is a somewhat realistic estimate. Do I think we'll actually get to that? No, but it is valuable to know the worst-case scenario. & # 39;
Another point of contention concerns the rate of growth of the virus, the rate at which cases are increasing. The UK's current growth rate is between 2 and 7 percent, according to government figures last Friday.
If virus cases doubled every day, the growth rate would be just over 10 percent. Officials could be expecting the rate of growth to rise – as it has for the past few weeks – but this was not explained at yesterday's meeting.
Steve Brown, a freelance consultant with 20 years of experience who specializes in model validation and is based in East Anglia, wrote on Twitter that it was "worth considering the motivations behind this graph" referring to the cases in which cases rose to 50,000 a day by mid-October.
He added: & # 39; It's a model. All models are wrong, but some are useful. Whether this is useful depends on the purpose for which it was intended; If the purpose was to scare everyone then it seems to have worked pretty well, but if the purpose was to make an accurate prediction then less so. & # 39;
He told MailOnline, "While the graph presented by government advisors may not have been intended as a prediction, many people will understandably see it as such."
He also claimed that the R-rate – which represents the number of people an infected person passes the virus on – would have to be 1.5 for cases to grow at the rate stated by Sir Vallance and Whitty. However, publicly available data suggest the R-rate is around 1, suggesting that current interventions are sufficient.
According to Sage – the emergency scientific advisory group that advises the government during the pandemic – the UK R-number has risen to 1.1-1.4. This is similar to predicting 1.0 to 1.2 two weeks ago.
However, the current R-Rate reflects the transmission until three weeks ago. In recent months, R and growth rate estimates have been less useful in determining epidemic status as the number of coronavirus cases has been small.
Mr. Brown said, "Reaching 50,000 cases in four weeks would require an R-rate of around 1.5. Analyzing almost all current public and transparent records, including cases by sample date or report date, case positivity rate, hospital admission dates, and deaths, suggests that R is much closer to 1 than 1.5 even after correcting the reporting delay.
& # 39; There is a huge difference between the policy response that would be required to an R-rate of 1.5 doubled weekly and an R-rate of 1. In this case everything is as good as under control.
“Excessive political reactions could cause enormous collateral damage in the years to come, costing tens of thousands of lives and millions of livelihoods.
“In order to gain public trust, the government and its advisors must immediately publish their daily estimates of the R-rate including the underlying calculations, as do other countries like Germany. Policy cannot be based on fear, dubious data and unvalidated models. "
In its report on Friday, the government said: “Estimates of doubling times can be made from positive growth rates; This suggests that the number of new infections has doubled between 10 and 20 days.
However, as with estimates of R and Growth rates, this reflects the transmission up until three weeks ago, and SAGE fears that the current doubling time could be every seven days nationally and potentially even faster in some regions of the country. & # 39;
Yet scientists are not convinced that this would lead to 50,000 cases per day within a month.
Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said: & # 39; The proposal of potential 50,000 new cases per day mentioned in today's press conference will inevitably create consternation as the UK would be high on the list of Covid-19 affected countries in the world.
& # 39; Only three countries in the world – India, US, and Brazil – have ever reported more than 50,000 new cases per day (although significant underreporting will have occurred in the early stages of the pandemic). Only India currently reports more than 50,000 cases a day.
& # 39; That number of cases in the UK equates to 75 per 100,000 people per day. Israel is currently the worst hit country in the world (excluding Aruba) with 51 cases per 100,000 people per day.
& # 39; Many observers may view this as an implausible scenario. Presumably the UK government intends to illustrate the consequences of continued exponential growth. & # 39;
Professor Paul Hunter, Professor of Medicine at the University of East Anglia's Norwich Medical School, said, “What you presented is the worst case given the current state of the epidemic.
“I think it's pretty implausible that we'll see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October. It is important to remember that they were not making a prediction, but rather presenting an example of what would happen if the cases continued to double, which they almost certainly will not. "
He said that the growth of an outbreak tends to slow down as it approaches its climax, adding: "I wouldn't be surprised if we followed France and Spain's development over the next few weeks – it is entirely plausible that we would 10,000 would see cases each day through mid-October. & # 39;
Professor Karol Sikora, cancer doctor and former director of the World Health Organization, told MailOnline that it was "unlikely that we will have 50,000 infections by mid-October".
& # 39; The other possibility is that there will only be 5,000 cases a day. Do we really need a two week lockdown to prevent this from happening? I don't think we will. "
He added, "You are so negative. The worst-case scenario graph for 50,000 cases a day through the next month just scares people."
Dr. Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow on Global Health at the University of Southampton, said the 50,000 daily figure is a "worst case scenario".
He added, “The modeling must calculate the best, worst, and most likely scenarios in order for different plans to be implemented. Cases at this level are very unlikely to occur as interventions are put in place to limit the spread of the virus, such as: B. regional locks. "
Scientists indicated that restrictions imposed in recent weeks, including the "Rule of Six" and local lockdowns, would curb the outbreak's growth and lower the rate of infection.
Dr. Flavio Toxvaerd, a professor in the Faculty of Economics at Cambridge University who specializes in infectious disease economics and economic epidemiology, said: "These predictions are often based on behavioral assumptions that are unlikely to be confirmed in practice. The projections are hindsight often too gloomy.
“Most epidemiologists are not trained in analyzing human behavior, a key to understanding the spread of diseases like COVID-19. They therefore model disease dynamics by essentially guessing how people will react to different policy measures.
& # 39; The worst-case scenarios presented in the graphics assume that people do nothing at all to protect themselves. Most epidemiologists agree that this is highly unlikely. In practice, it is expected that people will protect themselves and thereby contain the epidemic somewhat. & # 39;
Robert Dingwall, a professor in the School of Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University, pointed out that models of disease progression that ministers led during the pandemic are "only as good as the data at the time and the assumptions made".
He told MailOnline, "I'm not a model builder, but I know the modeling community has concerns about the extent to which the government is being influenced by these worst-case scenarios."
All models are a simplification of reality because they make different assumptions. For example, based on current knowledge, a model can assume that the majority of people who carry the coronavirus will show symptoms. In truth, however, it is still not clear how many symptoms of the disease are showing and how many are "silent carriers".
One of the earliest and arguably most influential models of the pandemic was that of Imperial College London, which warned in March that 500,000 Britons could die from coronavirus if no action was taken.
It is believed that the work, led by Professor Neil Ferguson, single-handedly triggered the national lockdown a week later, and sparked a dramatic change in the government's handling of the outbreak as it switched from herd immunity to lockdown.
Since then, however, the work of Professor Ferguson has been described by other experts as "completely unreliable".
David Richards, co-founder of UK data technology company WANdisco, said the model was a "buggy mess that looks more like a bowl of angel hair noodles than a finely tuned program," The Telegraph reported.
Sir Patrick emphasized yesterday that his sobering scenario of 500,000 cases a day was based on many unknowns. And it was by no means a "prediction". However, the slides he presented, which have since become widely used, did not make this explicitly clear
Professor David Paton, an industrial economist at the University of Nottingham, has predicted 50,000 a day, which would mean that cases will be five to six times higher than in France
Presenting a heat map of the UK, Professor Whitty warned that coronavirus cases are now increasing across the UK rather than just a few areas.
"It's not someone else's problem, it's all our problem," warned the chief doctor.
He explained, “What we've seen is a development where … there were very small breakouts first, possibly related to a workplace or other environment, then we saw more localized breakouts that occurred over time Cities have become bigger.
“And now we are seeing a rate of increase in the vast majority of the country. It's moving at different speeds, but it's increasing now. & # 39;
Nigel Marriott, an independent statistician, claimed that while cases doubled in parts of the north, they actually decreased in some regions of the south.
He added, "This regional inequality makes the national picture difficult to interpret and it suggests that the goal should be to stop the north wave as soon as possible before it can propagate south."
Public Health England data on Friday also shows that infections actually decreased or stagnated in 43 of 149 areas – 29 percent.
Meanwhile, the UK alert level for Covid-19 was raised from three to four last night as government advisors warned the virus number is likely to grow exponentially.
The decision was made by the country's four senior doctors, who urged the public to follow basic hygiene and social distancing practices to avoid "significant excessive deaths".
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "This country is now facing a turning point in its response and it is important that everyone now do their part to stop the spread of the virus and save lives." This was followed by a rare televised address from Sir Patrick and Professor Chris Whitty, the chief physician for England.
Professor Whitty appealed to the unselfishness of the public to follow the rules and not just assume that they could "take their own risk".
He said, "The problem with a pandemic or infection is that as an individual, I increase my risk, the risk for everyone around me and for everyone who has contact with them."
"Sooner or later the chain will lead to people who are vulnerable, older or have a long-term problem with Covid." Despite the somber tone of the briefing, Sir Patrick said there was a chance a vaccine could be available by the end of the year.
Boris Johnson proposes the opposite route: PM will close pubs and restaurants at 10 p.m., tell workers to stay home if they can, and demand that police crack down on rule violations TODAY in TV speech
By Jason Groves, Political Editor for the Daily Mail and Jack Wright for MailOnline
Boris Johnson is set to announce crackdown on normal life today to stop a second wave of coronavirus.
He will stop his "back to work" trip, announce restrictions on socialization and impose a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants from Thursday.
Pubs and other venues are only allowed to serve seated customers, and drinkers are not allowed to gather in crowds. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said yesterday that breaking "unnecessary household ties" is critical.
Northern Ireland announced a ban on families visiting other households last night and there was speculation that England might follow suit.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned Covid that the transmission "typically takes place in social settings, with people coming into your home or you going out and socializing".
In July, Mr Johnson urged staff to "get back to work if you can" to prevent city centers from becoming ghost towns. However, a source told the mail that employees will be advised in the coming weeks to "work from home if you can" (pictured, commuters working at Manchester's main tram stop in St. Peter's Square).
The number of guests at weddings can also be reduced from the current limit of 30. A senior government source admitted last night that the prime minister's return to work action would be suspended after scientific advisers warned that transmission in the workplace was an issue.
In July, Mr Johnson urged staff to "get back to work if you can" to prevent city centers from becoming ghost towns.
However, a source told the mail that employees are being advised to work from home if they can in the coming weeks.
The prime minister reportedly should shut down the entire hospitality sector after the health minister and government scientists pushed for more draconian measures, according to The Times. It goes without saying that the cabinet's economic hawks pulled him back from the sidelines.
The restrictions have divided the cabinet, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Economy Minister Alok Sharma both warned of the potential economic impact. However, a senior government source insisted that all ministers accept the move was necessary to bring the R-rate back under control, which measures how quickly the disease is spreading.
"The goal is to do maximum damage to the R and minimal damage to the economy," the source said. "If we don't act now, there will be greater economic damage later."
Businesses and schools are allowed to stay open, with government sources insisting the measures do not constitute a second lockdown. In other developments:
- The Covid-19 alert level has been increased from three to four, which means virus cases are either high or "exponentially".
- The number of confirmed cases rose by 4,368 from 3,899 the previous day. There were 11 more deaths;
- More than 430,000 residents in South Wales have been locked down after an increase in local cases.
- Taxpayers will have to pay billions more to keep trains running after rail company funding was extended by 18 months.
- The rules for areas in the local lockdown are being relaxed to allow grandparents to look after their grandchildren.
- In an open letter to the Prime Minister, more than 30 leading doctors and scientists criticized "harmful" plans to impose blanket lockdown measures.
Boris Johnson is set to announce crackdown on normal life today to stop a second wave of coronavirus. He will stop his "back to work" trip, announce restrictions on socialization and impose a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants from Thursday
A spokesman # 10 said, “Nobody is underestimating the challenges the new measures will pose for many individuals and companies. We know this will not be easy, but we need to take further action to control recurrence in cases of the virus and protect the NHS. & # 39;
The measures announced today are accompanied by a new push to enforce, including higher fines for individuals and on-site closures for venues that do not comply with the rules.
The final package will be signed by Cabinet this morning and coordinated at a meeting of the Government's Cobra Emergency Committee with senior executives from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister will give details of Parliament's restrictions at lunchtime before addressing the nation at 8 p.m. tonight.
He will urge the public to follow the "six-point rule" and continue basic measures such as hand washing – or risk an even harsher lockdown in the coming weeks. Mr Hancock said last night that the UK was at a "tipping point" where failure to follow the rules could cause the virus to spiral out of control.
In a somber briefing on television yesterday, Mr Whitty said the restrictions may have to last six months to help the NHS weather the winter.
Government scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told the briefing without action that Covid cases could reach 50,000 a day by the middle of next month and would die by November 200 a day.
None of the leading scholars asked media questions about their presentation that critics described as misleading. Mr Johnson will also evade media screening when he makes his televised address tonight.
The warning came amid Tory's unease at the prospect of further restrictions and "authoritarianism". Sir Edward Leigh cautioned the government against becoming "increasingly incompetent".
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Tory Backbenchers committee in 1922, accused Mr. Johnson of "decreeing" and treating the public "like children". A cabinet minister told the Mail that the prime minister also has serious reservations about imposing new restrictions on an economy struggling to recover from the lockdown.
The source said, "My impression is that the last thing Boris wants to do is get dragged back into another lock, but he has a very hard time resisting the scientists' message."
The Prime Minister is believed to have found it hard to resist the demands of the Minister of Health and government scientists as panic over rising cases of coronavirus in official circles.
According to reports, Mr. Johnson was prevented by Chancellor Sunak and Secretary of Commerce Sharma from shutting down the entire hospitality sector. They feared, according to The Times, that drifting into a second national lockdown would destroy UK plc.
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