It goes without saying that the world was sent into panic mode because of the coronavirus pandemic. This was, in part, due to predictions of widespread infection and deaths from the virus, particulary those of British scientist Neil Ferguson. His report, published on March 16, predicted 2.2 million Americans and over a half a million Brits would be killed by the virus. The report was taken seriously, prompting the United States, UK, and much of the world to effectively shut down to slow down the spread of the virus. But now Ferguson is walking back those doomsday predictions.
Ferguson’s report from Imperial College, which White House and other officials took seriously, said that if the U.S. and U.K. did not shut down for 18 months, and isolation measures were not taken, “we would expect a peak in mortality (daily deaths) to occur after approximately 3 months.” His “models” showed overflowing hospitals and ICU beds.
“For an uncontrolled epidemic, we predict critical care bed capacity would be exceeded as early as the second week in April, with an eventual peak in ICU or critical care bed demand that is over 30 times greater than the maximum supply in both countries,” the report reads.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, reportedly said the administration was particularly focused on the Imperial College report’s conclusion that entire households should stay in isolation for 14 days if any member suffered from COVID-19 symptoms.
Ferguson has now essentially retracted his original predictions.
The UK should now be able to cope with the spread of the covid-19 virus, according to one of the epidemiologists advising the government.
Neil Ferguson at Imperial College London gave evidence today to the UK’s parliamentary select committee on science and technology as part of an inquiry into the nation’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
He said that expected increases in National Health Service capacity and ongoing restrictions to people’s movements make him “reasonably confident” the health service can cope when the predicted peak of the epidemic arrives in two or three weeks. UK deaths from the disease are now unlikely to exceed 20,000, he said, and could be much lower.
Other experts have also suggested that the world overreacted to the coronavirus pandemic. Standford University professors Eran Bendavid and Jay Bhattacharya wrote in the Wall Street Journal that current estimates about the fatality rate of the coronavirus “may be too high by orders of magnitude,” and based on their modeling, the coronavirus could have a mortality rate of 0.01% — that’s ten times lower than the seasonal flu. Does that mean it will be that low? Not necessarily. Does that mean there may have been an overreaction by world governments because of faulty research by experts they rely on? Yeah, maybe.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis