How a very lousy RIVM model is still holding us captive

Article Summary

Despite the fact that the RIVM models of mid-December have completely missed the point, the measures introduced at the time are not yet fully phased out. This is again due to much too dark, pessimistic estimates by RIVM and OMT.

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Will it never stop?

Time after time, time after time, RIVM comes up with models with a very bleak scenario. These scenarios are the basis for the government to take serious measures. And if the figures develop significantly differently than expected, it is hardly possible to reverse them.

This happened, among other things, with the introduction of the curfew. And when the measures were not scaled down on March 10, 2021, I wrote this article with the title “Fear porn in the Catshuis”. Each of the RIVM models contains an extremely unlikely negative scenario, which subsequently becomes the argument for introducing measures or not yet scaling down.

The situation we are in now really takes the cake in that regard. The RIVM models and forecasts for mid-December have never been as bad as this time. As a result, we have ended up completely unnecessarily – as the only country in Europe – in a complete lockdown. But RIVM’s dramatic modeling work continues to play its poisonous role. OMT members play along and journalists don’t bite the bullet.

And that puts us in a situation where we will probably only get a partial scaling down of a complete lockdown tonight, which was unnecessary anyway. It resembles last year’s pattern in which measures introduced for a few weeks were held for months.

The misses in a row

Let’s take a look at what Van Dissel said in December and the models that were presented then. I do that on the basis of the articles we wrote during that period.

December 16, 2021: The Highly Improbable Omikron Scenario

Van Dissel had shown the OMT members and in the Catshuis what a translation of an English model would mean for the Netherlands. This is an excerpt from that presentation.

Realize that this was a scenario that was even more bleak than during the peak at the beginning of the crisis, in late March 2020.

In this scenario it was assumed, among other things, that the hospital load for Omikron would be the same as for Delta. While from South Africa the signals were already very strong that it was a much milder form. Plus that in the calculations (as always) the ultimate peak was placed much higher than experience had taught us by now.

These figures formed the basis of the first press conference on 14 December, during which the schools were closed earlier, among other things.

December 21, 2021: Prognosis 17 million Dutch people in hospital

After the article we wrote following the press conference on 19 December 2021, we went into more detail about the figures that Van Dissel had presented to the House of Representatives, among others. These formed the basis of the complete lockdown.

There was already enough information then to know that the outlined doomsday scenario could not come true. Therefore, this was the conclusion of that article:

How a very lousy RIVM model still keeps us captive

During the presentation during the press conference on December 18, 2021, which Van Dissel was also present, it was indicated that Omikron’s developments were still uncertain. And that if harder information became available, an adjustment would be made earlier than January 15, 2022.

While in the meantime more and more confirmation came about the leniency of Omikron, we did not see Van Dissel again in those four weeks to have measures quickly scaled down. On the contrary. Also in the latest advice from the OMT on Wednesday, some of those measures from four weeks ago were left intact. And the new government seems to be taking over that line almost entirely. Catering and culture are not allowed to open yet. Shops open by appointment only.

Coal arguments

And when you hear the OMT members and their adepts, you are again inundated with kul arguments:

  • without that complete lockdown we would have had thousands of extra patients in hospitals,
  • we see conflicting developments around Omikron in various countries,
  • it is now mainly among the young, but if it spreads to the elderly, it still goes wrong,
  • even while Omikron is milder, if a lot of people get the variant at the same time, the hospitals can still overflow,
  • things are going so well now because the government announced the lockdown six days earlier than indicated in the RIVM model.

And you see our traditional media nodding in understanding and barely asking questions. (As last night at OP1 Sven Kockelman showed the graph of the RIVM model until mid-December 2021, but did not indicate what the real figures are up to and including now).

Yesterday in the article “Stop the quarantine too” we cited a large study from California that confirms the patterns in South Africa and London. The pressure on care by Omikron patients in the hospital is only one eighth that of Delta!

But that message apparently does not get through to RIVM, OMT and many in the traditional media.

Reality compared to the model

That’s why we’re just showing the latest models of the RIVM. Plus the current numerical developments (thanks to Maarten van den Berg – @mr_Smith_Econ).

This was Van Dissel’s model, as he presented it to the House of Representatives on 21 December:

ic beds

Just the translation of this graph (and realize that the occupation of the ICU with Covid patients was at its peak – April 2020 – 1350):

  • In mid-December 2021, the occupancy of the ICs was around 650.
  • If only the evening lockdown were to be maintained, the occupation of the ICs would be 4300 at the beginning of February (red line).
  • If there were a strict lockdown after the Christmas holidays, the top would be 2700 at the end of January (green line).
  • If there were a strict lockdown from the Christmas holidays, the peak would be around 1850 at the end of January (blue line).

On the basis of this graph, the government decided, in complete panic, to let the lockdown come into effect on December 19.

But there were two major problems with this prediction:

  • It was assumed that Omikron would provide the same care burden as Delta. And hence the increases of all models from December 22, 2021.
  • The estimate of hospital occupancy until Christmas (ie without Omikron) was already too high.

This can be clearly seen in the model in yellow. The real numbers are shown (which OP1 could have done last night).

ic beds

The model with the real development indicated in yellow shows that the figures in the period up to Christmas 2021 (so before the effects of the complete lockdown were visible) were already lower than the model showed. But what is then completely clear is that the strong upward trend that would come through Omikron has not materialized at all. Something that South Africa and England had already shown.

But now it is said: that is due to the lockdown from December 19. Otherwise the numbers would have gotten a lot higher!

Look at Belgium

Then I advise you to look at Belgium. They have not announced a complete lockdown there, the catering industry has always been open until 11 am in recent months. And it was also possible to shop normally.

On December 19, almost 750 Intensive Care beds were occupied in Belgium. In the following 3 weeks, that fell at about the same rate as the Netherlands to almost 450 (-40%).

A month ago, the average influx to ICs in the Netherlands was still around 50 per day, now it is around 20.

But instead of these developments being a reason to immediately end the complete lockdown of December 19 (and that should still be the minimum), it seems that the RIVM and the OMT still have some credibility with the government, political parties and traditional media and is being phased out half-heartedly.

On 3 February last year I wrote that we live in a model dictatorship, in which we had surrendered to the model of the RIVM as a kind of Golden Calf. And almost a year later I can write the same article.

How a very lousy RIVM model still keeps us captive

Almost a year later, with many proven errors in the predictions, we hardly seem to have learned anything. With gigantic consequences for all layers of society. A society in which more and more people and groups are losing faith in the system and management, which will lead to an uncontrollable discharge at some point.

You have just read: How a very lousy RIVM model still keeps us captive.

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