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The many problems with NPHET’s model

As the citizens of the Republic appear to be faced with another prolonged period of restrictions, with a few minor concessions thrown in as a distraction, some questions have been raised regarding the model which NPHET and therefor the state is basing its gloomy predictions on.

That model is predicting a “worse case scenario” of 700,000 cases over the months of July, August and September resulting in a further 2,170 deaths. That of course would imply that not only will the reopening of various sectors be delayed, but that once we are into Autumn and Winter and the new school terms, that it may well be a case of being back to where we were already, at best.

While most TDs have continued with their fanatical devotion to the Delphic Oracle of NPHET, some have called for an independent evaluation of the model on which NPHET is working off. That this has not been carried out is rather worrying given the huge implications of what they are saying and what that will mean for the country.

So what is the model? My statistics do not extend much beyond basic analysis mainly targeted at predicting the outcome of horse races, but there are those who do understand the minutiae and they are not convinced.

Anyone with the time and the interest can judge for themselves as it is available here. The authors of the report are James Gleeson, Thomas Murphy, Joseph O’Brien and David O’Sullivan. From my examination, it would seem to be a mathematical model which is based on assumptions that like all other assumptions are just that.

You feed in data and you apply varying scenarios and the model will deliver a prediction based on that data. The problem with that in regards to Covid and its many varieties is that there is no way of predicting what a virus might do in the future, including the immediate future. The available data at different junctures over the past 18 months could, and indeed have, thrown up wildly varying scenarios.

And if you are in doubt about that, cast your mind back to when we were told in March and April 2020 with near certainty that Covid 19 was going to result in vast numbers of deaths. By some of the same people now playing Cassandra off Broadway. They were wrong then, why should we believe them now? Especially given that there are others who take a radically different view based on exactly the same data available to them.

Indeed, one of those responsible for the model used by NPHET was this time last year sounding a very different note. He is Joseph O’Brien who is a doctoral student at the University of Limerick. On July 1 2020, he had a blog hosted by the European Consortium for Mathematics in Industry, in which he stated:

And yet, several months later, following a limited lifting of restrictions, the prognosis was once again doom and gloom. That is not to say that he may not be right, but he is obviously not right all the time. No more than anyone else. It also proves that the data being used at any given point in time is no more than a guesstimate for what will happen in the future. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the believers in the Mystical Meg nonsense of Marxism are the most fanatical devotees of this science too.

O’Brien’s other research has been in such areas as been, along with James Gleeson; a model on snooker rankings which concluded that John ‘The Wizard of Wisham’ Higgins was the bestest snooker player ever; a contribution to a conference on the Kelly Criterion bet staking system, and two studies of Fantasy Premier League.

If as seems likely, this period of restrictions is set to continue, at the very least those who govern us, and those with aspirations to govern us, ought to be doing what they are elected to do. Which is to scrutinise legislation and decrees that have a massive impact on the people who elected them. Not to be nodding dogs in the back window of NPHET and the Zero covid fanatics who scare them because they are scientists.


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