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  • rmacculloch

Do the Covid Modelers Add Up?

As we endure these tense times of Auckland's lockdown, a government call is being made shortly whether to continue with the Level 4 lockdown. Now here's one observation which just doesn't add up to me.

Last year, on 20 April, 2020, the Cabinet was faced with almost the same decision, namely whether to drop from Level 4 to 3. The Productivity Commission wrote in their report on this decision that daily new cases "had dropped" ... "to an average of 10 for the preceding four days". Using these numbers, the Commission's cost-benefit analysis which "incorporated both health and economic costs" lent support to the view that the alert level should have been lowered at the time. However that view was strongly opposed by, guess who? The government's official Covid modelers. They asserted that the Commission was incorrect & the risk of the virus blowing up again was so large that the alert level should be kept at four. Which it was. And they pejoratively referred to the Commission's model as a "toy".

The modelers went so far as to write in the Spinoff, "Unfortunately, the commission’s report is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of disease transmission dynamics and, as a result, grossly underestimates the benefits of the level 4 extension". They said the Commission had made an "error", was "wildly off the mark" and even got political, taking a swipe at ACT, "Unfortunately, the error has resulted in media coverage that misrepresents the social & economic consequences of the decisions made in April. This has the potential to undermine decisions in the future – indeed, the Act Party is already questioning the lockdown extension using the commission’s paper".

So what's the situation on 20 September, 2021? A far more contagious strain of the virus is on the loose. And we have averaged around 20 cases the past four days. Yet the very same modelers who could not have more strongly opposed the drop from Level 4 to 3 last year now say, regards the current decision, "everybody's a bit over level 4, people need a bit of light at the end of the tunnel" and "It's probably worth taking a calculated risk". The Herald also reported the modelers as saying that going to Level 3 is not going to cause a “catastrophe” if it turned out to be the wrong move, and anyhow, if they couldn’t eliminate the cluster, and it grew again, authorities had the option of returning to Level 4.

So, to summarize. Are the official Covid modelers who so strongly opposed the drop in alert levels last year, based on the preceding four-day average of TEN cases of the LESS contagious strain, now, based on a preceding four-day average of TWENTY cases of a WAY MORE contagious strain, reversing their advice? Did I miss something?



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