In which I say that, while there were many errors in the UK’s response to covid, the ur-mistake was gigantic overconfidence in uncertain science…
Via @graham8digits, a reminder that at least someone was making the same criticisms *at the time*. The UK response was based around incredibly precise manipulation of a chaotically uncertain reality
@Graham8digits this is something I was confused by. They were surprised by the Imperial 16 model showing that hospitals would be overwhelmed. But the flu plan expected 2.5% of infected to die, but *at most* 4% to go to hospital. So I think they expected most people to simply suffocate at home?
I'd like to spend some more time looking into it. The pandemic flu plan did not, as far as I could tell, make any explicit estimates about the burden on ICUs, tho it did expect pressure. The reality that most people go to hospital when they get ill seems to have surprised them?

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More from @TomChivers

27 Apr
in which I try to impart just how urgent it is that the West gets its spare vaccines to India (and starts making more vaccines to get ready for wherever the next India is)…
Note: I use the IHME estimates for daily new cases in India in this piece. Someone's pointed out to me that those estimates are based on an implausibly low infection fatality rate, ≈0.05%, which would change the numbers:…
A plausible lower bound might be the Imperial model, which is around 1m new infections a day, rather than 10m…
Read 4 tweets
29 Sep 20
editors are great right up until they change the words you've written. if i'd wanted different words I'd have written them, god's sake
what if I *like* empty qualifiers, hmm, did you think about THAT before taking them all out
Read 4 tweets
24 Sep 20
re Oxfam's carbon inequality report, which said the richest 1% accounts for 50% of emissions… it says "We assume …that emissions rise in proportion to income". Doesn't that mean its findings are automatically implied? If the richest 1% get 50% of income…
…then the model will automatically say that they create 50% of emissions? I mean it's probably not *wrong*, it's just a bit weird, like saying "if we define the most handsome people as looking the most like Tom Chivers, then we find that Tom Chivers is the most handsome person"
which again is a slightly strange way of arriving at an obviously true conclusion
Read 5 tweets
22 Sep 20
On the "false positives on Covid tests mean that there's no evidence of a second wave" theory that's been going around, and why that is, I'm afraid, flat wrong:…
It’s worth noting that while I’ve used 1% in my example as for the false positive rate, as @andymoz78 points out, the true figure cannot be higher than 0.08%, because that’s the TOTAL number of positives, false and true. So the real problem is smaller than my piece suggests
further reading: here's @whippletom on the same subject. His piece is excellent and clear, but I'm mainly tweeting it to clarify that he and I are two separate people who both happen to be called Tom and to have written articles about false positives…
Read 4 tweets
17 Sep 20
this is seven times the ZOE symptom study's estimate ( so I sincerely doubt this to be true. Plus, Dr Costello says in his next tweet that Whitty is *not* advising a two-week lockdown. I suggest deleting this tweet
very annoyingly, also, Dr Costello has posted his correction-tweet, but not only NOT deleted the original, he hasn't done the correction-tweet as a reply to that original, so people seeing the original will have no way of knowing that he's already rowed back half of his claims
Read 4 tweets
15 Sep 20
testing anecdata, for those interested: I post my vaccine trial tests on Friday; I usually get a result by Sunday. My most recent was sent on Friday but I only got my result today.

(Possible confounder: I forgot to put one barcode on this time so maybe that slowed it down?)
and to be clear: the Oxford vaccine trial (which I'm in:…) uses normal PHE testing; if my test comes back positive, I have to inform the trial, and self-isolate as normal. I'm not in some special testing regime, it all goes through the usual system
ANECDATA: I've been submitting a test every Friday for three months. I've now looked back through them, and until late August they all came back by Sunday or Monday. Now it's Tuesday or Wednesday every time.

We can't really base any conclusions on this but I found it interesting
Read 4 tweets

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