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How do we think about the UK lockdown debate?
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The UK lockdown model is false

Professor Neil Ferguson's model has a shocking record of misinformation and flawed analysis. During the UK foot and mouth crisis, he also contributed defective models. For these reasons, we should disregard his predictions and end the lockdown.
Coronavirus Health Imperial College Neil Ferguson


It is wrong to use Neil Ferguson's model to justify policy decisions when much of his previous modeling has been proven to be wrong time and time again.[1]

The Argument

The UK's lockdown model is on shaky ground. Not only does it rely on the early and controversial modeling of Professor Neil Ferguson, but it now ignores the original rationale for shutting down the country. Reliance on Ferguson's modeling may have seemed justified early on, but now it may be nothing more than hysteria. Not only do we know more about the virus, its virulence, and its transmissibility, but the original projections of mortality have not come to pass. Crucially, Ferguson predicted 100,000 deaths if the lockdown lifted before a vaccine was available. With much of the world beginning to reopen, the UK is not even halfway to that number. Additionally, many of the deaths due to COVID-19 are from other health factors, and not solely the disease. The use of Ferguson's model as justification to lockdown was also reliant on the premise that the disease would remain with us for some time, and that the lockdown would give the NHS time to prepare for infections. The NHS had doubled its capacity by mid-May, but the lockdown began to lift in June, slowly. Whether it is a full shuttering of the country or a partial one, the government has not adapted to the changing realities of the pandemic quickly enough. [2] Lastly, Ferguson has caused hysteria with his professional recommendations before. His predictions for the death tolls and effects of foot and mouth disease, mad cow disease, and bird flu all sound like hyperbole when compared to the actual outcomes. His predictions for COVID-19 appear to be heading toward a similar fate.[1] The government has yet to give a sound rationale for the length and severity of the lockdown, especially with the changing predictions and outcomes that have materialized since Ferguson's original model. The lockdown must end now.

Counter arguments

It is unfair to place the burden of the lockdown on a single scientist. While Neil Ferguson was a crucial part of the decision to lock down the UK, he was not the only scientist to advocate for it. A majority of the public health community spoke out in favor of swift measures to fight the spread of the virus.[3] Even if another response could have been adequate, the UK was too slow to implement it, ensuring that a lockdown was needed. Additionally, our knowledge of the disease has been everchanging. At the time, a lockdown seemed like the only option to slow the spread and help healthcare systems prepare for an influx of patients. This has not substantively changed. The degree of infection and death in the UK has only served to prove that a lockdown was necessary. Without it, the crisis would have likely been orders of magnitude worse. To lift the lockdown now would only serve to give up the progress made in slowing the disease, and risk the lives of those most vulnerable, all because of skepticism around a single scientist. [4]



[P1] The government's rationale for a lockdown has shifted from Ferguson's model and their original justifications. [P2] Neil Ferguson's history of poor predictions should challenge his recommendation for a lockdown. [P3] The lockdown should end now.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] While our knowledge of the virus has changed, it does not make the vulnerable any less susceptible to severe disease. [Rejecting P2] Neil Ferguson is merely one of many scientists who have advocated for a lockdown and suggested that the virus will cause a high number of deaths. [Rejecting P3] Ending the lockdown would squander our progress made in slowing the spread of the disease.


This page was last edited on Monday, 26 Oct 2020 at 14:53 UTC

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