UK forced into coronavirus U-turn after numbers surge

UK forced into coronavirus U-turn after numbers surge
UK forced into coronavirus U-turn after numbers surge

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Nearly 1.5 million people will die in the UK and US if tough controls on social contacts are introduced to prevent the spread of coronavirus, British scientists have warned.

Researchers from London’s Imperial College said that some 250,000 people could die in the UK and 1.1-1.2 million in the United States unless draconian restrictions on normal life are introduced.

The research from its Covid-19 response team, which has informed the UK government’s response to the outbreak, said strict restrictions on normal life could have to continue for at least 18 months until a vaccine is found.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced much tougher measures on movement and isolation based in part on the research. The tougher strategy places the UK more closely in line with countries such as Italy, which is currently the worst affected country in Europe.

Professor Neil Ferguson, the lead author of the paper, told the BBC: “We are left with no option but to adopt this more draconian strategy.”

He said the initial worst-case scenario that a large number of deaths would see health service overwhelmed was an underestimate.

“As information has been gathered in recent weeks from, particularly Italy, but other countries, it's become increasingly clear it's not the reasonable worst case, it's the most likely scenario,” he said.

The research published on Monday suggested that the only viable strategy was a new suppression tactic adopted in China and South Korea would require at least social distancing of the entire population and home isolation of cases.

It says that it may need to be supplemented by school and university closures but warned that it could have an impact in forcing doctors and nurses to skip work because of childcare issues. Without the measures, the study warned, health services could be overwhelmed.

The research said it was not clear even then if all the measures were followed if the tactic would be successful because of the difficulty of keeping it in place for months.

The research team said that if the tactic was successfully employed it could slow the death rate to “a few thousands or tens of thousands” in the UK, the FT reported.

The paper appears to abandon the “herd immunity” tactic promoted by senior government advisers last week to manage the infection rate to slow the rate of transmission.

Mr Johnson told people to stay away from pubs, clubs and theatre and to avoid all non-essential travel as the death toll in the UK hit 55. Anyone living in a household with somebody who has the symptoms of a persistent cough or fever was told to isolate themselves for 14 days.

His Government is also expected to push through new legislation that would allow police to detain people to stop them from spreading the virus.

"Without drastic action, cases could double every five or six days," said Mr Johnson.

Updated: March 17, 2020 01:14 PM

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