Professor Neil Ferguson’s computer coding has been mocked as “totally unreliable” by people who warned that it was “something you wouldn’t put your life on.”
The model, credited with forcing the government to turn around and introduce a nationwide lock, is a “buggy mess that looks more like a bowl of angel-haired pasta than a piece finely tuned programming, ”says David Richards, co-founder of the British data technology company WANdisco.
“In our commercial reality, we would fire anyone for developing code like this and any company that depended on it to produce software for sale would likely go bankrupt.”
Comments are likely to reignite a dispute over whether the UK was right to lock out the public, with conflicting scientific models suggesting that people may already have acquired substantial herd immunity and that Covid-19 may have hit Britain earlier than expected. Scientists have also been divided over the mortality rate of Covid-19, which has resulted in very different models.
So far, however, significant weight has been attached to the Imperial model, which placed the death rate higher than the others and predicted that 510,000 people in the UK could die without locking.
It is believed to have caused a radical policy change on the part of the government, resulting in the immediate closure of businesses, schools and restaurants in March. The Bank of England has predicted that the economy could take a year to return to normal after facing its worst recession in more than three centuries.
The imperial model works by using code to simulate transportation links, population size, social networks and health services to predict how the coronavirus would spread. However, questions have since emerged about the accuracy of the model, after researchers released the code behind it, which in its original form was “thousands of lines” developed over more than 13 years.
In its original form, the developers claimed that the code was unreadable, with some parts appearing “as if they were automatically translated from Fortran,” an old coding language, according to John Carmack, an American developer, who helped clean up the code. before it is published online. However, the problems seem to go much further than haphazard coding.