Tom Whipple Profile picture
Feb 3 11 tweets 3 min read
I'm going through this paper by Johns Hopkins economists, that assesses the efficacy of lockdown in the US and Europe - and concludes it was essentially useless.

I'd love thoughts on something I've found, which may well be my misinterpretation 1/x…
The study is a meta-analysis, combining other previous between-country comparisons. To produce the combined estimate, they take 18,000 studies, exclude all but a handful and then pool their findings. Image
Looking at the weighting, it actually seems to be based almost entirely on one study. So rather than being a meta-analysis it is really a recapitulation of that study, by Chisadza et al Image
The other odd thing is that study itself comes to a very different conclusion about the efficacy of lockdown.… Image
The JH study does mention they have a difference of opinion. But, it does seem odd - if indeed this study is the sole basis for their study - that they differ so widely. Image
It also struck me as strange to exclude the other data from other regions that is in the chisadza paper. If your meta analysis includes other papers, then obviously you have to take the relevant bit of each. But if the meta analysis is just a reanalysis, why lose info?
(unless I've misunderstood in particular what the weighting means which - again - I may well have. This thread is me thinking aloud, hoping for answers!)
I spoke to the author of the paper on whose research this entire meta-analysis was based. She said: "They already had their hypothesis. They think that lockdown had no effect on mortality, and that’s what they set out to show in their paper."
A couple of studies from high impact journals that somehow didn’t make the cut, when the authors decided of 18,000 papers effectively just one met their exacting standards:
From Nature Human Behaviour

"The social distancing and movement-restriction measures discussed above can therefore be seen as the ‘nuclear option’ of NPIs: highly effective but causing substantial collateral damage"…
From Science

Limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people, closing high-exposure businesses, and closing schools and universities were each more effective than stay-at-home orders, which were of modest effect in slowing transmission.…

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More from @whippletom

Nov 29
More than a year ago there was an oddity in covid testing in the south west. Anecdotally, people were testing positive on lateral flows, then being given the all clear by PCR. So many reports came in that, eventually, there was an investigation. 1/…
The culprit was identified. A lab was found to have given around 40,000 people the wrong result.…
Afterwards, infection rates went from among lowest in country to among highest. Slightly ludicrously, the government claimed that the error did not have an effect.…
Read 7 tweets
Nov 6
Musk is an impressive guy who has done incredible things. I would be an idiot to write him off. But here is my worry about prioritising blue ticks in search and replies.

It is (just) conceivable that media organisations like mine might pay. Great for me. Great for our egos 1/
Except, once I get beyond my ego, the main professional justification for twitter is what I read on it, not what I write. During covid, would Civil Service have paid for @kallmemeg to be promoted? Or @statsgeekclare? I doubt it.
And if they had, doubtless (I'm really not being hyperbolic) each tweet would have to have been signed off and edited by five separate people in Whitehall.

So I would have missed out on crucial analyses of variants and of data. Because the tweets would have been shit.
Read 5 tweets
Oct 14
At this stage this is just a level of either stupidity or basic ignorance that should disqualify you from talking about this subject permanently. The trial protocol wasn’t secret, none of this is new, and it did hit transmission - it just wasn’t tested in initial phase 3 1/x.
How could you even design the protocol? The vaccine worked so well they only had eight positives who were vaccinated among the 40k participants.
Oddly, the government and Pfizer got criticism for *not* claiming it reduced transmission.
Read 4 tweets
Oct 13
History can do odd things to memory...


In January 2021 I wrote about how scientists were saying that the government, astrazeneca and Pfizer were being a bit over-cautious when they warned vaccines couldn't stop transmission. 1/5…
This article was written on the back of this statement by JVT…
Many thought this over-cautious: if it cut infection, it was hard to see how it didn't cut transmission. It wasn't until *separate* PHE studies showed an effect on transmission that Whitty eg started saying this explicitly.

Read 5 tweets
Sep 13
Guess whose boss decided there’s nothing happening in science, so he might as well be sent to sleep rough for 36 hours?
(I’m queuing for the queen)
It’s very wet. But I’ve found a place to get deliveroo. I asked a man in a dog collar if I could use Lambeth palace. “Yes, he said. And if anyone has a problem with it tell them the Archbishop of York says it’s ok”
Read 11 tweets
Aug 29
Britain appears to have taken the difficult and controversial decision that, on balance, it doesn't like swimming in poo. Now what?

How do we get less poo in our waters? Here's my "it's complicated" article…
1. The problem.

The original sin, the turd in Britain's water ointment, was Bazalgette. In 1858, as The Times put it, MPs were "forced by sheer stench" to solve the Thames poo problem.

So Bazalgette built a big pipe. But he allowed rainwater in. We mixed sewage and storm.
This is not ideal. Until the 1960s, all sewers did this. After then, we separated them - but the separated sewers often still mixed in old infrastructure further down the line.

Then, population doubled and we put plastic grass on our gardens.
Read 9 tweets

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