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Top US forecaster Nate Silver says Professor Ferguson is ‘overconfident’ in Covid predictions

Renowned US forecaster Nate Silver has slammed ‘Professor Lockdown‘ Neil Ferguson’s prediction that Covid cases would rise to 100,000 a day in the UK.

Silver, who uses models to predict the outcome of US presidential elections, said there were too many unknowns in the pandemic for anyone to confidently assert anything.

Professor Ferguson, from Imperial College, had predicted that the third wave could lead to a huge surge in infections, with up to 100,000 new cases a day by next month.

Renowned US forecaster Nate Silver (pictured) has slammed ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson’s prediction that Covid cases would rise to 100,000 a day in the UK

Professor Ferguson, from Imperial College, had predicted that the third wave could lead to a huge surge in infections

Professor Ferguson, from Imperial College, had predicted that the third wave could lead to a huge surge in infections

But following the recent downturn in cases, Ferguson has revised his prediction and said Covid could be over by October.

Writing on Twitter, Silver said: ‘Covid cases have fallen to 33,000 per day (7-day average) since Neil Ferguson, perhaps the UK’s most prominent epidemiologist, said it was “almost inevitable” that cases would hit 100,000 a day.

‘I don’t care that the prediction is wrong, I’m sure this stuff is hard to predict. 

‘It’s that he’s consistently so overconfident. Now he says he’s “positive” the pandemic will be over by October. 

‘Well, probably. But there are downside risks: new variants, waning immunity, etc.’

Silver, who uses models to predict the outcome of US presidential elections, said there were too many unknowns

Silver, who uses models to predict the outcome of US presidential elections, said there were too many unknowns

Political scientist Philip Tetlock agreed, adding: ‘Expect even top forecasters to make lots of mistakes. When smart forecasters are consistently overconfident, start suspecting they’re not playing a pure-accuracy game (e.g. publicity or policy-advocacy games).’

Prof Ferguson had said the drop in infections appeared to be ‘real’ and the R number could be slightly below one – although he cautioned that the situation is still very uncertain and there might be more spikes.

He suggested the dip was down to the end of the Euros football tournament and warmer weather meaning people were mixing indoor less.

While he said there could be ‘uncertainty’ into the Autumn, he stressed that the calculations had ‘fundamentally’ changed due to vaccines.

‘I’m positive that by late September, October time, we will be looking back at most of the pandemic,’ he said. 

‘We’ll still have Covid with us, we’ll still have people dying from Covid, but we will put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.’ 

It comes as Department of Health data revealed that infection rates are now ticking downwards in every age group in England, dipping fastest among twenty-somethings. 

Britain recorded another 27,734 Covid cases on Wednesday, down 37 per cent in a week for the seventh day in a row. But hospitalisations still rose and deaths increased by a quarter week-on-week. 

Scientists at University College London estimate the total population’s immunity is at 87 per cent, with the current threshold for herd immunity at 93 per cent due to the contagious delta variant.

Being so close to the threshold should make it harder for the virus to transmit.

Dr David Matthews, a virologist and coronaviruses expert from the University of Bristol, told The Telegraph: ‘In terms of herd immunity – by which we mean the virus has managed to reach everybody and therefore most people will have a level of immune memory – I suspect we’re very close to it.

‘Assuming nothing truly spectacularly leftfield happens then this pandemic is pretty much over for the UK. I suspect we will not see a major surge this winter, or any serious levels of fatalities.

‘The more we close the gap on the last 10 per cent who haven’t had the vaccine the better we will be. Everyone will eventually meet the virus and it is far better to do so vaccinated.’


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