Government policy and guidance crafted in an effort to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus-related deaths has largely been based upon an Imperial College London model headed by Professor Neil Ferguson.
The terrifying model shows that as many as 2.2 million Americans could perish from the virus if no action is taken, peaking in June.
However, that model is likely highly flawed, Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta argues.
Professor Gupta lead a team of researchers at Oxford University in a modeling study which suggests that the virus has been invisibly spreading for at least a month earlier than suspected, concluding that as many as half of the people in the United Kingdom have already been infected by COVID-19.
If this is the case, fewer than one in a thousand who’ve been infected with COVID-19 become sick enough to need hospitalization, leaving the vast majority with mild cases or free of symptoms.
With so many in the U.K. (and potentially the United States) presumably infected, so-called “herd immunity” could kick into effect, dramatically limiting the number of deaths modeled by Ferguson and company.
“The Oxford study is based on a what is known as a ‘susceptibility-infected-recovered model’ of Covid-19, built up from case and death reports from the UK and Italy,” the Financial Times explains. “The researchers made what they regard as the most plausible assumptions about the behaviour of the virus.”
The report continues: “The modelling brings back into focus ‘herd immunity’, the idea that the virus will stop spreading when enough people have become resistant to it because they have already been infected.”
While the notion of “herd immunity” has been essentially dropped in U.K. policy making, “the Oxford results would mean the country had already acquired substantial herd immunity through the unrecognised spread of Covid-19 over more than two months.”
The Financial Times emphasized: “If the findings are confirmed by testing, then the current restrictions could be removed much sooner than ministers have indicated.”
“I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” Gupta criticized.
Of course, the epidemiologist encouraged caution and suggested changes to policy and guidance only be made after more evidence can be presented.
The Oxford group is working with researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Kent to begin antibody testing on the general U.K. population later this week by using specialised “neutralisation assays which provide reliable readout of protective immunity,” Gupta explained.
“We need immediately to begin large-scale serological surveys — antibody testing — to assess what stage of the epidemic we are in now,” the professor said.
Other respected medical professionals have offered a more optimistic look on the coming weeks and months with COVID-19, too.
For example, Stanford biophysicist and Nobel laureate Michael Levitt said this week, “The real situation is not as nearly as terrible as they make it out to be.”
Last week, Levitt emphasized: “[Y]ou need to think of corona like a severe flu. It is four to eight times as strong as a common flu, and yet, most people will remain healthy and humanity will survive.”