A report by the Imperial College London COVID-19 Response Team revealed that whatever action the Government takes will not stop NHS intensive care beds from being overwhelmed.
- A team of virus experts at Imperial College London made sobering predictions
- It had become clear ‘in the last few days’ that the original plan wouldn’t work
- The Government yesterday announced a dramatic move to shut down the UK
- Millions are now working from home and everyone is told to avoid socialising
Britain’s coronavirus shutdown could last for 18 months or more while scientists scramble to find a vaccine capable of stopping the disease, scientists warn.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced that people should stop socialising, work from home, avoid travelling and that whole households should stay in isolation if one person becomes ill.
And a report by leading scientists who are advising the Government said people may need to keep up the drastic lifestyle change for 18 months or more.
The Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team predicted that 260,000 people could have died if the Government hadn’t changed tack yesterday and tightened its rules.
Now it could limit them to fewer than 20,000 by keeping people away from each other and slowing down the spread of the virus.
British officials had only realised the danger ‘in the last few days’, the report said, after watching the situation in Italy spiral out of control and overwhelm hospitals – around 2,200 people have now died there and there are 28,000 confirmed infections.
This inspired a dramatic ramp-up of UK policy and Mr Johnson announced a move to war-footing to try and stop the outbreak.
The switch-up was an admission that officials’ original plans to control and slow an outbreak – to ‘flatten the curve’ – had been too ambitious and the scientists paper showed the Government was on track for disaster.
Ambulance workers are pictured wearing protective gear as they handle potentially hazardous samples at St Thomas’ Hospital in London – the capital is the hardest-hit area in the country
UK authorities had confirmed 1,543 cases of the coronavirus and 55 deaths by yesterday. The true number of infected people is believed to be higher than 25,000
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced that the UK was going to war with the coronavirus – people were urged to work from home, not to socialise and to self-isolate if anyone in their house becomes ill
Data from the Imperial College team shows that nothing can stop the coronavirus overwhelming NHS intensive care units. Even the most strict quarantine measures would not prevent there being far more cases than there are beds to handle
Healthy people below the age of 70 have been urged to work from home if they can, to avoid socialising or going out and to stop all non-essential travel
If no action at all had been taken against the coronavirus it would have claimed 510,000 lives, the Imperial College report said.
Had the Government stuck with their strategy of controlling the spread with limited measures such as home isolation for those with symptoms this number would be roughly halved to 260,000.
If the strictest possible measures are introduced – including school closures and mandatory home quarantine – the number of deaths over a two-year period will fall below 20,000, the scientists said.
Professor Neil Ferguson, lead author of the study, said: ‘Instead of talking about hundreds of thousands of deaths, there still will be a significant health impact that we’ll be talking about.
‘Hopefully, tens of thousands… maybe, depending on how early we are, just a few thousands.’
The scientists emphasised there will be no end in sight to the measures until a vaccine is created.
Other points in the Imperial College report, titled Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand, included:
- Lockdown measures could be brought back if the virus resurfaces after this epidemic is over
- The coronavirus outbreak is worse than anything the world has seen since the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic
- It was ‘highly likely’ people would have started social distancing by themselves out of fear or responsibility, even if the Government hadn’t told them to
- Dramatic measures to suppress an outbreak carry ‘enormous social and economic costs which may themselves have significant impact on health and well-being’
- Virus transmission happens evenly – one third of cases are caught in the home, one third at work or school, and one third elsewhere in the community
- People are thought to be infectious from 12 hours before symptoms start, or from four days after catching the infection if someone doesn’t get symptoms
- Patients who do get symptoms are thought to be 50 per cent more infectious than those who don’t
- People are thought to develop at least short-term immunity after catching the virus, meaning they can’t catch it again
- Approximately 4.4 per cent of patients need hospital care. 30 per cent of those need intensive care, and 50 per cent of intensive care patients can be expected to die, according to data from China
- The average length of a hospital stay for a coronavirus patient is 10 days – eight days for those who recover quickly; 16 days for those who need intensive care