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Epidemiological modelling of Covid by HMT

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Dear HM Treasury,

In evidence submitted to the UK Covid-19 public inquiry [INQ000196031], reference is made by the (then) Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Dame Angela McLean DBE FRS HonFREng, to an epidemiological 'toy model' model shared with, and modified within, HMT on or around 25 January 2021:

"HMT changed the model after I QA'd it and I don't know how. Anything HMT says about infectious disease modelling therefore has no endorsement from me - they are on their own. Given their inability to spot egregious errors in other things they were sent I do not have any confidence in their ability to hack a simple, sensible model."

Further, former HMT Chief Economic Advisor Ms. Clare Lombardelli in her oral evidence to the inquiry on 6 November 2023 said:

"We did do a lot of modelling, and we did use the information as far as possible, so we were doing modelling and we were using it. On smarter NPIs, one of the things we did do - and you've seen it in the evidence - is build what's called 'epi-macro' models, that bring together the epidemiologists and the macroeconomics as far as they can, and we did use those models, and the results and the insights that they bring are very similar to the ones that you're talking about, in terms of smarter NPIs and actually, are there a range of restrictions that you could look at, and how do you think about those in terms of their impact on the virus and their impact on the economy... We were using very similar techniques, we talked to a lot of academic epi-macro modellers and actually if you look at other organisations, they were doing the same. I think epi-macro modelling was clearly evolving very quickly and that was very useful through the pandemic and we learnt a lot about it. Where it was challenging, and challenging for everyone, was in terms of the insights it could provide into very specific decisions about which restrictions and at what time... one of the things that we did a lot was talk to people in other countries about what they were doing and their approach was, on the modelling and the analysis, to make sure that, were we missing things and were there other things that we should be thinking about, and others were taking a very similar approach... We had a suite of models that we used, and we used those models throughout the pandemic, in different ways and for different things, as was useful, and we also had the data and analysis that we were using, and we brought those together and we used them through... We were all the time evolving what was useful in the modelling capability and depending on what the specific question is that you're trying to answer, in some areas a model might be useful, in other areas it might not be..."

Similar points are made in Ms. Lombardelli's written witness statement [INQ000251931].

Please provide any material you hold relating to the methodology used for any of the above-referenced models. To be clear, I refer to all models with an epidemiological component.

If versions of any of the models referred to above are held by HMT as a spreadsheet, computer code, or in any other programmatic form, please provide them 'as-is', preserving all underlying modelling information (including values of variables and relationships between spreadsheet cells and/or variables). If external programs or code libraries are required to run the models please provide the package names and version numbers used within HMT. If any model exists as a version-controlled repository (e.g. Git, Mercurial, etc) please provide the version-controlled repository.

Given that Prof. Dame McLean refers to changes made to the 'toy model', please provide the version of the model shared with her, the revised version subsequent to the changes she describes, and any other substantial revisions.

Yours faithfully,

J. Whitehead

FOI Requests, HM Treasury

Our ref: FOI2023/17945

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Dear J. C. Whitehead

Please find attached a response to your recent FOI request.

Yours sincerely

Information Rights Unit | Correspondence and Information Rights | HM
Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ [1]www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

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