Spectator podcast Women with Balls, with Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta


Katy Balls talks to Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford. An expert in the fight against infectious diseases, she is the lead scientist behind the Oxford study that disputed Imperial College’s dire coronavirus predictions. She is also a novelist and translator. On the podcast, she talks to Katy about her writing and how it was inspired by her intellectual father; her dispute with the mentor of Imperial College’s Neil Ferguson; and how she has found being in the public eye.

A reminder of what Imperial said: with a world on max lockdown, we would still expect about 900,000 deaths around now. Give or take. More or less. Etc. #epitwitter I fear this may be epidemiology’s version of the 2008 financial crisis…

The table below shows 250 days after first infection. Yes yes infection didn’t all start on 1 Jan but this model would only be ballpark correct if the infection started globally 6 weeks ago.

It’s easy to be wise in hindsight – except that quite a few people were saying this sort of thing, at every step of the way. I predict that in future this – the model, the politics, all of it – will become a classic study in how science policy should not be made. In the meantime, as we climb down from the heights of our panic, it’s just so fascinating to witness ideas that start off as dangerous – like “maybe we shouldn’t be locking down” – gradually become more common, and to feel the tug in oneself of trying to decide who to trust.

The usual disclaimer: I’m not saying the virus isn’t dangerous, that lives don’t matter, that we should do nothing… just that we haven’t reacted well.

page 11 of imperial report