A day or two ago, the lead author of the Imperial paper, Professor Neil Ferguson, went before a parliamentary committee and reiterated the figures. He noted that because Britain had now implemented the recommended social distancing measures, the lower maximum figure of 20,000 would now apply - as long as we stay the course, and that's the crucial caveat. A three-week lockdown won't be enough to have that effect, it'll have to be extended, and extreme social distancing will have to go on for a very prolonged period.
Because journalists are unable or unwilling to read, Ferguson's comments to parliament were apparently misreported in some quarters as Imperial "walking back" on their estimate of quarter of a million deaths. That led to Trump supporters in the US pushing the entirely bogus claim that Imperial were admitting they got their sums wildly wrong - when in fact all Ferguson had done was reiterate exactly what had been in the original paper.
Most disgraceful and sinister of all, though, was Dr Deborah Birx of Trump's task-force lying through her teeth at a White House press conference by claiming that Imperial had radically changed their projections, and that she was "trying to understand" how that could possibly have happened. I simply don't believe she's that stupid - it's pure propaganda on behalf of Trump, intended to undermine the overwhelming scientific evidence that millions of Americans will die needlessly if social distancing is prematurely abandoned, as Trump apparently wants to happen.
The irony is that right-wing American conspiracy theorists are trashing Ferguson as if he's some sort of "liberal" hellbent on ruining the American economy, when the reality is that it was earlier Imperial modelling that had been partly responsible for leading Britain down the disastrous herd immunity path in the first place. When new data came in from Italy and the UK, the modelling was updated and Ferguson's team concluded that a suppression strategy was the only viable option. Trump supporters are shooting a messenger who originally told them what they wanted to hear, but who can no longer do so for the simple reason that the evidence in front of him no longer supports it.
It may be that nothing can save America from itself, but it's important that the Trump propaganda isn't allowed to take root in this country. Professor Ferguson has put out a crystal-clear clarification which you can see below, so there shouldn't be a problem as long as people can read. But here's the thing: can they read?
"I think it would be helpful if I cleared up some confusion that has emerged in recent days. Some have interpreted my evidence to a UK parliamentary committee as indicating we have substantially revised our assessments of the potential mortality impact of COVID-19.
This is not the case. Indeed, if anything, our latest estimates suggest that the virus is slightly more transmissible than we previously thought. Our lethality estimates remain unchanged.
My evidence to Parliament referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place.
Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand)."