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Scientist denies revising Imperial College study on COVID-19 predictions

Scientist denies revising Imperial College study on COVID-19 predictions
March 27
12:17 2020

London, March 27 : An epidemiologist associated with the widely cited Imperial College London study that led governements in the UK and the US ramp up their efforts to contain COVID-19 spread has denied claims that he drastically reduced the estimates originally predicted in the research.

According to the projections by London’s Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, in the absence of a vaccine and drastic control measures, the disease may kill as many as 22 lakh people in the US and over 5 lakh in the UK.

As part of an inquiry into the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, one of the scientists associated with the study, epidemiologist Neil Ferguson said that due to the measures taken by the UK government including restrictions on people’s movements, deaths from the disease may remian under 20,000, or could be even lower.

This led some people to accuse the scientists of walkinig back on the original predictions.

In a series of tweets on Friday, Ferguson clarified that he did not revise the study’s assessments of the potential mortality impact of COVID-19.

“I think it would be helpful if I cleared up some confusion that has emerged in recent days. Some have interpreted my evidence to a UK parliamentary committee as indicating we have substantially revised our assessments of the potential mortality impact of COVID-19,” Ferguson said.

“This is not the case. Indeed, if anything, our latest estimates suggest that the virus is slightly more transmissible than we previously thought. Our lethality estimates remain unchanged,” he added.

For the study, the researchers applied a previously published microsimulation model to two countries: the UK and the US.

“My evidence to Parliament referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place,” Ferguson said.

“Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand),” he added.

In the study, the researchers concluded that a strategy of “suppression” would prove to be more effective than “mitigation” in reducing deaths and preventing healthcare systems being overwhelmed.

A strategy of “mitigation” focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread — reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection.

The “suppression” strategy aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely, according to the study which modelled the impact of different non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on the number of deaths and the healthcare system.

IANS

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