Based on current figures, this should include Dorset, Huntingdonshire, Suffolk, Sussex, South Cambridgeshire and many other places. But Sage are not using current figures. They are using figures from November 19 and comparing them to figures from November 12. This is a big problem because the data from November 19 do not tell us what was happening on November 19, let alone what is happening now.
People don’t typically ask for a test unless they have symptoms, and it can take up to ten days for an infected person to become symptomatic. They then have to request a test and take it. All this takes time and creates a delay between infections occurring and infections being reported. After Wales introduced its “firebreak” on October 23, for example, the number of cases rose for a week before they began to drop – and they kept dropping for a week after it ended. This is to be expected and it was the same in the Czech Republic, France, Israel and many other countries. Now that we have mass testing, we can see it more clearly than we did in the spring.
By using data from November 19 to decide which areas should go into each of the three tiers, the Government is, in effect, using infection data from November 12, only a week after lockdown began. The number of infections had fallen by 25 per cent by November 19 and will continue to fall at a similar rate until December 9, but the Government has made no attempt to account for the subsequent decline.
Any honest attempt to put regions in the appropriate tier would estimate what the infection rate will be when the lockdown ends, not what it was three weeks ago. Sage are no strangers to predictive modelling, but on this occasion they decided to base their decision on what happened in the past.
Contrast this with the decision to go into the lockdown on October 31. The number of new infections had been flat for a week and many of the areas of greatest concern, such as Liverpool and Manchester, were seeing a decline. The Government nevertheless introduced a national lockdown off the back of a “reasonable worst case scenario” which, according to Prof Neil Ferguson, assumed that the infection rate was high and the tiered system was having “minimal impact”. With these implausible assumptions fed into it, the computer model pointed to lockdown. What else could it do? Garbage in, garbage out.
Making predictions seems to be fine if it deprives us of our liberty, but is unthinkable when it comes to restoring it. The common denominator is an almost pathological desire by government scientists to promote lockdowns at the expense of less costly options.