A young mathematics academic who said he has correctly predicted the course of the coronavirus pandemic has warned that it might never end unless we have an extended lockdown.
Luthais McCash, a research fellow at the University of Leicester specialising in applied mathematics and mathematical modelling, says his background has given him a good insight into the pandemic.
The 26-year-old says he started out in mathematical biology at the University of Dundee, and that his first academic paper, looking at how to model the spread of cancer, was published at the age of 16, KentLive reports.
At the time, a local newspaper in Scotland where he grew up had labelled him a 17-year-old “gene genius”.
Mr McCash says he has warned on various podcasts that the country would leave lockdown too early, resulting in a cycle of virus resurgences lasting at least two years.
He said he doubts a vaccine will change that as the Government confirmed any jab would be voluntary so he estimates it needs at least four fifths of the population to take it to effectively if it is to suppress coronavirus.
The most recent YouGov poll found that 21% said they are unlikely to take a vaccine with a further 12% unsure.
Mr McCash, who grew up in Scotland via Bavaria, Germany until the age of 10, now lives with his partner in Canterbury.
He said that everything he has predicted has been correct so far and the only way people could guarantee an end to the pandemic would be to properly self-isolate, ideally for at least 12 months.
He said: “I said this on a podcast months ago: ‘If only coronavirus would kill all the stupid people.’ And I got such a rapping around the knuckles for it.
“But I said: ‘If you cross the road and you don’t look left and right and you get hit by a car, any reasonable member of the public would turn around and say it’s their own fault, you didn’t look left or right, you deserved to get hit.
“To me that’s actually not much more different from saying if you don’t take the necessary precautions then you are more likely to be infected.
“The difference is with coronavirus, it affects more than just yourself. And that’s a really serious issue.”
Mr McCash, who has an auto-immune disease, says he has hardly left the house since March, except to walk his dog on beaches and to pick up a couple of takeaways with his partner.
“It’s a pretty sorry affair that in 2020 there has to be a global health crisis to remind people to wash their hands. I mean that’s sad,” he said.
“I don’t think people themselves realise how infrequently they wash their hands on a day-to-day basis.
“It shows how invincible humans think they are.”
He says that earlier in the pandemic he was correctly forecasting numbers for cases and deaths, having sent his predictions in advance to people he “trusts”.
But he hasn’t done specific modelling for how things might develop from here.
“It’s actually more difficult to make a prediction now. At the beginning a lot more of the population were doing as they were told. Now it’s more difficult to predict because there’s a lot of fluidity.
“I will say that I am hypothesising. But my view – and I hope I am wrong – is that it will never end unless we go for a suppression strategy.
“We will develop mechanisms to deal with it better, but it won’t go away.
“We need to stop everything. We need a 12-month lockdown. I appreciate that that will have a massive effect on people’s income, people’s lives, but that’s what’s needed.
“That’s sufficient enough time to reduce the movement substantially enough to allow the virus to suppress. It’s no good saying we’re coming down of lockdown because deaths are down or cases are down that’s not good enough. There has got to be a period after too.
“I say that from looking at the rate of infection and secondly from looking at behaviour analysis.
“I am not a virologist or an immunologist but at the end of the day I am a scientist who is very passionate about empirical evidence.
“I am astute and I am unconventional.
“Sometimes I’m hypothesising and conjecturing on what I’ve said and I’m clear when I’m doing that.”
Mr McCash says that as well as his academic research, he is self-employed as an industrial consultant “providing expert mathematical modelling and analysis to organisations in a range of projects”.
He says he most recently looked at GP surgery data and analysed it for predictive modelling but he is passionate about the pandemic and the only solution he feels is needed.
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He said: “The emphasis now is for everyone to pin their hopes on the vaccine and we will ride the storm out and be fine. I think that’s flawed.
“I don’t think that’s accurate and I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it.
“Saying the vaccine will fix everything is putting all your eggs in one basket. We don’t how effective they are and we don’t how many people will take them.
“I think people should social distance, wear masks, be vigilant, work together in the sense that you think: if you are in a shop and you are not wearing a mask, you are putting everyone at risk.
“At the moment people aren’t following the rules. Come February there is going to be a strong increase in cases. There will be another lockdown by summer.
“This Tier system isn’t going to help. As soon as you lift the local lockdown, people will migrate again.
“I said that in March we will be in this for at least two years and we are now eight months on.
“This will be cyclical – unless we do something about it.”