Death scenarios used by Government to justify second national lockdown may be four times too high

Death scenarios used by the Government to justify a second national lockdown are out-of-date and

Death scenarios used by the Government to justify a second national lockdown are out-of-date and may be four times too high, research suggests.

At Saturday night’s Downing Street press conference, scientists presented graphs suggesting England could see 4,000 daily deaths early next month.

The scenario from Cambridge University was used as part of efforts to justify the introduction of sweeping restrictions.

But data experts have questioned why the scenario – drawn up three weeks ago – was chosen to illustrate the crisis, when the university has produced far more recent forecasts, which are significantly lower.

The modelling presented on Saturday night, which suggests deaths could reach 4,000 a day by December, is so out-of-date that it suggests daily deaths are now around 1,000 a day. 

In fact, the daily average for the last week is 260, with a figure of 162 yesterday.

And the statistics unit at Cambridge University has produced far more up-to-date projections, with far lower figures, the Telegraph can reveal. 

These forecasts, dated October 28 – three days before the Downing Street announcement – far more closely track the current situation, forecasting 240 daily deaths by next week, and around 500 later this month. 

While these predictions do not look as far ahead as December, they suggest a picture which is far more optimistic than the scenario which caused shock waves this weekend. 

Prof Carl Heneghan, the director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, at Oxford University, said he was “deeply concerned” by the selection of data which were not based on the current reality. 

He said: “Our job as scientists is to reflect the evidence and the uncertainties and to provide the latest estimates.”

“I cannot understand why they have used this data, when there are far more up-to-date forecasts from Cambridge that they could have accessed, which show something very different.”

Prof Heneghan said his analysis suggests the forecasts could be four to five times too high. 

He said: “I’m deeply concerned about how the data is being presented so that politicians can make decisions. It is a fast-changing situation, which is very different in different regions, and it concerns me that MPs who are about to go to a vote are not getting the full picture.”

The modelling was among several scenarios presented by Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific advisor, during the Downing Street press conference, and described as “early SPI-M (Sage’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling) working analysis”.

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, said: “This is not the first time that we’ve had misleading forecasts. Back in March we had the Imperial College model which was some 10 times greater than any potential outcome.

“The first responsibility of the scientific advisers to the Government is to give the truth to the public and not to cherry pick the data. This is a fairly major error on their part if they’ve used old data which effectively misleads the public.

“Since members of Parliament absolutely need to have accurate information to make the undoubtedly difficult judgments on this, I hope that they correct the record before the Prime Minister briefs the House.”

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said: “This is yet another example of the experts on Sage marking their own homework and selecting carefully the data they needed to get the Government to make the decision to lockdown. 

“This appears to be deliberately misleading the British public. It should be retracted.”

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker said: “This evidence does appear to indicate that the death models are already wrong and by quite a considerable margin.”

He raised concerns about whether other modelling presented on Saturday was also open to question.

Mr Baker said: “If the modelling on NHS capacity is as flawed, we are suddenly in a different conversation today from the one I had in Number 10 on Saturday.”

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