PM frees millions of couples to visit their partners and allows lone grandparents to see families

Boris Johnson tonight lifted the coronavirus sex ban for millions of people by freeing boyfriends and girlfriends to meet up indoors without breaking social distancing rules – as long as one of them lives alone.

From Saturday two households in England will be able to form ‘support bubbles’ that allow them to meet indoors and stay overnight together without measures like the two-metre rule applying for the first time in months.

As well as couples, the rule change also allows family members like grandparents living alone to spend time with their grandchildren as the Government seeks to help lonely and isolated people.

But in a move which will dash the hopes of many – and avoid a free-for-all that could increase the spread of the virus – one of the two households in the bubble must be either a single person living alone or a single parent with children. 

It means that the sex ban that came in at the start of June despite a general easing of the lockdown, will for some people be scrapped.  

Older people living alone will be able to go and stay with their children, or have their grandchildren to stay at their own homes to help with childcare. 

It also means single parents can do the same with their own parents – or another single parent – to make it easier for them to juggle work and their families. 

The move, announced by the Prime Minister at tonight’s Downing Street press conference, is designed to help the UK’s ‘many lonely or isolated people’ who are seen as struggling the most during the months-long lockdown.

The Prime Minister said: ‘I know how how difficult the past months have been for people cut off from their family and friends.

‘There are still too many people, particularly those who live by themselves, who are by themselves and struggling’. 

He admitted that there would be many people disappointed by the restrictions on eligibility but cautioned that the change was not an excuse for a free-for-all. 

‘We are making this change to support those who are particularly lonely as a result of lockdown measures,’ he said.

‘It’s a targeted intervention to limit the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions.

‘It is emphatically not designed for people who don’t qualify to start meeting inside other people’s homes, because that remains against the law.’

In other coronavirus developments today:

  • The UK faces the biggest hit of any major economy, with GDP set to plunge by 11.5 per cent this year, the OECD think-tank warned today;
  • Boris Johnson has hinted that the two-metre social distancing rule will be eased as case numbers fall as he faced a Tory backlash over the economic ‘devastation’ it is causing;  
  • Covid-19 outbreaks have been worse in areas with major airports and large numbers of travellers passing through them, according to a report from the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP);
  • Figures on how many people have been contact traced could finally be published tomorrow, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock has admitted the NHS app is not yet ready to go into use.  

The move, announced by the Prime Minister at tonight’s Downing Street press conference, is designed to help the UK’s ‘many lonely or isolated people’ who are seen as struggling the most during the months-long lockdown

School children under the age of 15 have a very low chance of dying from coronavirus, according to statistics

School children under the age of 15 have a very low chance of dying from coronavirus, according to statistics

Can I be in a support bubble? 

Not everyone will be able to be in a ‘support bubble’ under the plans set out this evening.

They are designed to allow the most lonely and isolated people to have more social contact with friends or family. 

It is mainly geared towards the elderly and those who live alone who lack social contact under the lockdown. But the rules will also allow some couples who live apart to spend the night together.

Here are how some people will be affected:

I’m a grandparent and I live with my spouse, can I see my young grandchildren?

Sadly no. The support bubble must contain one person who lives along. Widowers, widows and divorced grandparent,s as long as they lived alone, would be allowed to see their grandchildren. 

I live at home with my parents but my boyfriend has his own flat and he lives along, can I stay over?

Yes you can. He can also come to stay at your house with you if you want. 

I have my own place but my partner lives in a shared flat, can I see her?

This is the largest grey area. It appears to depend on how many of her flatmates have partners. Her flat can only form one bubble with one other household. It cannot act as a ‘hub’ bubble like the spoke of a wheel with each flatmate in a different bubble with their boyfriends and girlfriends living elsewhere. One way around this however would appear to be to have your partner move in with you for the duration – though she would not be able to go back to her flat.

I’m a single mum with three small kids and a full-time job. My friend is in a similar position and we are both struggling, can we share childcare?  

Yes. If you are both single parents living only with your children you can form one bubble between you. So one of you can look after the children while the other works, even in different houses.

The plan announced does not allow two-parent families to form a support bubble with another similar family. 

It means that thousands of married couples struggling to hold down their jobs and home-school and care for children will still have to go it alone. 

And in another restriction, households cannot be in more than one bubble, meaning some agonising choices to be made. 

Additionally, if any members of a bubble come down with coronavirus symptoms, all members of it will have to self-isolate for 14 days as per current advice.

There is no limit on the distance between the two homes in the bubble. Local homes would be preferred but officials accept this is not always possible.

But questions are likely to be asked over how well the scheme can be policed, with No 10 admitting it will be ‘based on trust’. 

Downing Street also admits many people who are not eligible will be unhappy but said it was important to move slowly to avoid a second peak in coronavirus deaths.

And officials have advised people who are currently shielding not to take part, saying it is too high a risk for them.

The sex ban was revealed at the start of June when new coronavirus regulations ruled no persons may participate in a gathering which takes place in a public or private place indoors, and consists of two or more persons.

Only those with ‘reasonable excuses’ are allowed to gather privately – and sex is not one of those reasons listed.

Downing Street admitted at the time that police did not have the power to go into people’s homes if they believed the law was being broken, meaning it was almost completely unenforceable.

The announcement came as Britain’s coronavirus death toll jumped by 109 to 40,992. 

Mr Johnson has also earlier hinted that the two-metre rule will be eased as coronavirus case fall as he faced a Tory backlash over the economic ‘devastation’ it is causing.

The PM is coming under growing pressure to relax the instruction, which is hampering the return of schools and crippling swathes of UK plc.

Senior Conservatives are increasingly furious, with some branding the premier’s leadership on the issue ‘pitiful’.

There are claims that the government is preparing a shift in approach next month when pubs are due to get the go-ahead to open gardens. 

In the Commons this afternoon, Mr Johnson acknowledged that the advice from SAGE was that the risk did increase significantly as the distance lessened.

Britain’s coronavirus death toll jumps by 245 as official number of victims tops 41,000 

Britain’s coronavirus death toll today jumped by 245 as Northern Ireland recorded no new fatalities for the fourth day in a row with the outbreak across the UK continuing to fade.

Department of Health figures show the official number of victims has now topped 41,000 but other grim statistics yesterday revealed the actual number of deaths is closer to the 51,000-mark.

The number of daily lab-confirmed Covid-19 fatalities is 31.7 per cent lower than the 359 recorded last Wednesday and down slightly on the 286 registered yesterday.

Analysis of figures today revealed at least 1,000 deaths involving Covid-19 took place in the UK for 22 days in a row in April, with the number of fatalities peaking on April 8 (1,441).

 Government statistics released this afternoon also showed only 1,003 more cases were diagnosed, in the lowest daily figure since lockdown was imposed on March 23 (967). And Boris Johnson tonight revealed only 443 people were admitted to hospital in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with Covid-19 on June 7, down from a peak of 3,431 on April 1. 

But he said: ‘There are all sorts of views about the two-metre rule, he’s absolutely correct in what he says about the Sage advice. 

‘But clearly, as the incidence of the disease comes down, as I think members of Sage would confirm, the statistical likelihood of being infected – no matter how close or far you are from somebody who may or may not have coronavirus – goes down.’ 

Mr Johnson is also feeling the pressure over the failure to ensure all primary school children are back in classrooms before the summer.

He and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer took potshots at each other in the Commons today as parents vented fury about the lack of a plan to get schools back up and running. 

In petulant exchanges at PMQs, Mr Johnson faced an onslaught from the Labour leader who accused him of ‘flailing around’ while millions of children missed out on their education.

But Mr Johnson raged that Sir Keir had been ‘flip-flopping’ over whether schools were safe to return or not, had not honoured his pledge to work together on the crucial issue, and needed to speak to his ‘left-wing friends’ in the teaching unions.

‘I really think he needs to make up his mind,’ the premier swiped.

The two politicians ended up squabbling during the seven-minute clash over whether they had discussed the subject in a phone call, leaving parents none the wiser over when and how children will return to school.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson admitted yesterday that the ‘ambition’ of getting all primary age children back in class for a month before the summer break has been ditched, just weeks after it was set.

And Government sources have refused to confirm that all pupils at either primary or secondary schools will be able to go back full-time after the holidays, merely saying they hoped ‘more’ could return.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has accused ministers of ‘furloughing childhood’, while parents voiced anger that non-essential shops, McDonald’s and zoos are reopening on Monday before most schools. Former chief inspector of schools Michael Wilshaw said the government’s approach had been a ‘mess’ and was fuelling a ‘tragedy’ for young people.

Tory MPs are among those who have demanded a route map to get children back to school. Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committee, warned that 700,000 of the most vulnerable pupils were doing no work at home at all and many do not even have access to computers, predicting an ‘epidemic of educational poverty’ without more assistance.

Meanwhile, there is pressure for a Nightingale hospitals-style operation to use community halls and churches as temporary classrooms.

Boris Johnson’s statement in full 

Good evening, two weeks ago, I set out the progress we as a country have made against our five tests for adjusting the lockdown, and the measures we could introduce as a result.

And today, I want to update you again on those five tests and set out some further changes we can now make. 

The five tests are designed, as you know, to ensure that any changes to the lockdown are careful, proportionate, and safe.

They combine analysis of the latest data on the spread of the disease with assessments of how well we are placed to meet the operational challenges posed by the virus.

We must do everything in our power to avoid a second peak of infection that overwhelms the NHS – because that would lead to more lives lost, more families in mourning, and more disruption to our economy and way of life.

Our first test is to protect the NHS’s ability to cope, so that we are confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.

It’s thanks to the efforts of those working in the NHS that we can still be confident the NHS can cope.

On 7 June, 443 people were admitted to hospital with coronavirus in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, down from 628 two weeks earlier, and down from a peak of 3,431 on 1 April.

And on 9 June, 492 patients with coronavirus were in mechanical ventilation beds in the UK, down from 848 two weeks earlier, and down from a peak of 3,301 on 12 April.

So that means we are still meeting the first test. 

Our second test is to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from COVID-19 so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.

And of those who have tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, I am sad to say that 41,128 have now died. That’s an increase of 245 fatalities since yesterday.

As measured by a 7-day rolling average, the UK daily death rate now stands at 200, down from 300 two weeks ago, and down from a peak of 943 on 14 April.

So the death rate has continued to fall, and so the second test is still being met. 

Our third test is to receive reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection – the number of people catching Covid – is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.

In total, 290,143 people have now tested positive for coronavirus, which is an increase of 1,003 cases since yesterday.

The seven day rolling average of new positive cases found through testing is now 1,419, down from 2,416 two weeks ago, and down from a peak of 5,195 in the first week of May.

In a moment, Sir Patrick will talk us through SAGE’s latest assessment of the R and other evidence on infection rates.

Based on the various data available, the government is satisfied the third test is being met. 

Our fourth test is that we must be confident that the range of operational challenges, including on testing capacity and Personal Protective Equipment, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.

Yesterday 170,379 tests were carried out or posted out across the UK, compared to around 12,000 at the start of April. The total now stands at 6,042,622.

Tomorrow the Health Secretary will provide an update on how NHS Test and Trace is performing.

On PPE, we have secured over 150 deals with new suppliers around the world and procured 2.2 billion items of PPE to be manufactured domestically.

Despite the immensely frustrating difficulties we have faced with PPE and testing in the past, this progress means we are now satisfied that the fourth test is being met – though of course we remain vigilant. 

Our fifth and final test is that we must be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS.

I am grateful to the Chief Scientific Adviser and the Chief Medical Officer for their advice on the measures I am about to set out – and on this basis I can confirm the Government judges we have met the fifth test.

Therefore, the Government is satisfied that all five tests are still being met and we can proceed with the following further adjustments to the lockdown in England.

A month ago I set out our roadmap to recovery and that explained the gradual steps we would take to ease the lockdown, as the data and the evidence allows. The measures it contained were all conditional on continued progress in tackling the virus. We are continuing to follow our roadmap, while adjusting our approach as we need to, as we always said we would.

Although we are tackling this virus as one United Kingdom, it remains the case that the devolved administrations are responsible for lockdown in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And it is right that they move at the right pace for them, according to their circumstances.

For that reason, the specific measures I am about to set out apply in England only.

First, on retail, shops. This has been the most challenging period for shops and high streets in our history. Never before have all shops been ordered to shut in this way. It has now been 82 days since we asked these shops to close their doors and I know the toll this has taken.

Which is why I am so pleased that, as the Business Secretary confirmed yesterday, we can now allow all shops to reopen from Monday. It is vital that establishments should ensure they are meeting Covid Secure guidelines before they reopen.

That way we can keep staff and customers safe while we get retail going.

Second, on social contact. I know how difficult the past months have been for people cut off from their friends and family.

Last Monday, we relaxed the rules on meeting outdoors so that groups of up to 6 could gather, provided they are socially distant. We did so in the knowledge that transmission of the virus is much lower outdoors, so we could make this change in a safe way.

But there are still too many people, particularly those who live by themselves, who are lonely and struggling with being unable to see friends and family.

From this weekend, we will allow single adult households – so adults living alone or single parents with children under 18 – to form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household.

All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household – meaning they can spend time together inside each others’ homes and do not need to stay 2 metres apart.

I want to stress that support bubbles must be exclusive – meaning you cannot switch the household you are in a bubble with or connect with multiple households. And if any member of the support bubble develops symptoms, all members of the bubble will need to follow the normal advice on household isolation.

We are making this change to support those who are particularly lonely as a result of lockdown measures. It is a targeted intervention to limit the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions. It is emphatically not designed for people who don’t qualify to start meeting inside other people’s homes – that remains against the law.

Unfortunately, we cannot advise anyone who is shielding to form a support bubble at this stage, given their particular vulnerability to the virus. However, I want to say I know how hard it is for those of you who are shielding, and we will say more next week about the arrangements that will be in place for you beyond the end of June.

Third, on outdoor attractions. Because the risk of transmission is lower outdoors, we can open up some more outdoor attractions for people to enjoy this summer.

So from Monday, we will allow outdoor attractions where people can stay in their cars, such as safari parks and drive-in cinemas to open.

I am very grateful to the zoo industry for their cooperation and forbearance, and am happy to confirm that they too can reopen from Monday, provided visitor numbers are managed and safeguards put in place. That includes keeping indoor areas such as reptile houses closed and facilitating social distancing.

Finally, we will allow places of worship to open for individual prayer this weekend. And I hope that will be of some comfort to those of faith who have been unable to go to their place of worship.

As set out in our roadmap, the next set of changes – Step 3 – will not begin until 4 July at the earliest, as the evidence allows.

I know that these changes are only incremental and that some of you, many of you, may be hoping and waiting for more.

I also know that people will once again find anomalies or apparent anomalies in what people can and cannot do. And as I have said before, I’m afraid that is just inevitable when we are only able to give people a small amount of the freedoms that they usually enjoy.

We will continue to remain cautious and measure the effect of the changes that we make. And as I’ve always said, we won’t hesitate to apply the brakes if that is what the situation requires.

That has meant moving slower than we would have liked in some areas.

It is because the rate of infection is not yet quite low enough, and because we are not able to change our social distancing advice including smaller class sizes in schools, that we are not proceeding with our ambition to bring back all primary pupils at least for some weeks before the summer holidays. Instead we are working with teachers to bring back as many pupils as we can within those smaller class sizes.

We do fully intend to bring all children back to school in September, provided the progress we are making continues, which I hope it will. That is our focus and it is consistent with the approach that has been taken by many other countries in Europe.

In the meantime we must stick to our roadmap.

I urge everyone to continue to show restraint and respect the rules which are designed to keep us all safe. It’s only because of the restraint that everyone, you all have shown so far that we are able to move gradually out of this lockdown.

So please, to repeat what you’ve heard so many times before, stay alert, maintain social distancing and keep washing your hands.

Help control the virus by getting tested if you have symptoms and isolating if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Then, if we all do that together, we will all save lives and begin to rebuild our country.

Beleaguered Boris Johnson says it is ‘too early to judge’ success of UK’s coronavirus battle after Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson claims Britain’s death toll would have been HALVED if draconian measures were introduced one week earlier

Boris Johnson pleaded with the public not to judge him over the UK’s massive coronavirus death toll tonight after a top scientists claimed up to 25,000 British lives could have been saved if lockdown had started just a week sooner.

The Prime Minister struggled under a barrage of questions at tonight’s Downing Street press conference after Professor Neil Ferguson’s bombshell revelation to MPs this afternoon.

Mr Johnson imposed the lockdown on March 23 on the back of the Imperial College London scientist’s grim modelling, which predicted 500,000 people could die if the virus was left unchecked.  

But Ferguson, dubbed ‘Professor Lockdown’ conceded this afternoon that, in hindsight, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if the lockdown had come a week earlier. 

Britain has officially suffered 40,000 fatalities where Covid-19 was the definite cause of death – the most in Europe and only second to the US. 

But the true death toll is thought to be above 50,000 according to estimates which factor in suspected cases who did not receive a test. 

Facing the public and reporters tonight Mr Johnson highlighted the number of questions about past actions, when he wanted to focus on the future with an announcement on easing the lockdown for the most isolated Britons

‘At the moment it is simply too early to judge ourselves,’ he said.

‘We simply don’t have the answers to all these questions.’

Asked about what his biggest regret from the crisis is, the PM said: ‘Of course we are going to have to look back on all of this and learn lessons that we can.

‘But, frankly, I think a lot of these questions are still premature.

‘There are lots of things, lots of data, things that we still don’t know, and this epidemic has a long way to go, alas.

‘Not just in this country, but around the world.’

But chief medical officer Professor Christ Whitty was more forthcoming, saying: ‘I think there is a long list, actually, of things that we need to look at very seriously.

‘If I was to choose one, it would probably be looking at how we could … speed up testing very early on in the epidemic.

‘Many of the problems that we have had came because we were unable to actually work out exactly where we were.’

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, said: ‘The tragic reality is Boris Johnson was too slow to take us into lockdown, too slow on PPE for health and care staff, too slow on testing and now too slow on putting in place a functional test and trace regimes.

‘Ministers must accept they made mistakes and reassure they have learnt lessons so we can save as many lives as possible and minimise harm from this horrific deadly virus.’  

The Prime Minister struggled under a barrage of questions at tonight's Downing Street press conference after Professor Neil Ferguson's bombshell revelation to MPs this afternoon

The Prime Minister struggled under a barrage of questions at tonight’s Downing Street press conference after Professor Neil Ferguson’s bombshell revelation to MPs this afternoon

Britain's death toll from COVID-19 could have been halved if lockdown was introduced a week earlier, 'Professor Lockdown' Neil Ferguson has claimed

Britain’s death toll from COVID-19 could have been halved if lockdown was introduced a week earlier, ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson has claimed

Facing the public and reporters tonight Mr Johnson highlighted the number of questions about past actions, when he wanted to focus on the future. 'At the moment it is simply too early to judge ourselves,' he said

Facing the public and reporters tonight Mr Johnson highlighted the number of questions about past actions, when he wanted to focus on the future. ‘At the moment it is simply too early to judge ourselves,’ he said

Professor Ferguson made the stark admission at a virtual House of Commons Science and Technology Committee briefing today in a rare public appearance since flouting stay at home rules to have secret trysts with his married mistress

Professor Ferguson made the stark admission at a virtual House of Commons Science and Technology Committee briefing today in a rare public appearance since flouting stay at home rules to have secret trysts with his married mistress

Professor Ferguson made the stark admission at a virtual House of Commons Science and Technology Committee briefing.

It was one of only a handful of public appearances made by the former SAGE scientist, who was forced to stand down from the group after flouting stay at home rules to have secret trysts with his married mistress.

Professor Ferguson also claimed that Britain missed 90 per cent of its coronavirus cases because it was not screening passengers at airports, in a thinly-veiled jab at the Government. 

The epidemiologist told MPs today: ‘The epidemic was doubling every three to four days before lockdown interventions were introduced. 

‘So had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have then reduced the final death toll by at least a half,’ Ferguson said.

‘So whilst I think the measures … were warranted … certainly had we introduced them earlier, we would have seen many fewer deaths.’ 

WEARING FACE MASKS COULD KEEP THE R BELOW ZERO UNTIL A VACCINE IS READY

The widespread use of face masks in Britain could keep the reproduction rate below one and stop a second wave of coronavirus as the UK comes out of lockdown, a study suggests.  

Modelling by the universities of Cambridge and Greenwich found if half of Brits wore masks it would prevent the crisis from spiralling back out of control.  

The researchers said mask-wearing by everyone was twice as effective at reducing R compared to only asking symptomatic people to use them. 

Lead author Dr Richard Stutt, from Cambridge University, said: ‘Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public.’

If 50 per cent or more of the population wore them then the R will remain below one as long as social distancing stayed in place and lockdown was eased very gradually, the study claims.

If every single Briton wore masks in public then the scientists estimate it could keep R stable without any draconian curbs.

But the researchers admit it would be highly unlikely that everyone would adhere to the rules.  

The UK’s R rate is thought to be between 0.7 and 0.9 — but some experts estimate it has crept above 1 in the North West and South West of England.  

The R represents the average number of people an infected patient passes the virus to and keeping it below 1 is crucial to prevent a second surge of the virus.  

Professor Ferguson claimed that a lack of screening at airports was the route cause of Britain’s catastrophic outbreak.

He claimed he was sounding the alarm about imported cases coming from Italy and Spain since February.

Professor Ferguson criticised the UK for taking too long to ramp up its testing capacity, which meant swabs were reserved for only very sick Covid patients.

The result was that thousands of infected people were allowed to fly in from Europe and spread the virus through the UK.  

Professor Ferguson told MPs: ‘We tried very hard to estimate what proportion of cases were being missed. At the time [before lockdown] we didn’t have a policy of screening people at borders and we estimated then that two-thirds of cases were being missed.

‘What we know now is… it’s probably 90 per cent of cases imported to this country were missed.

‘These were really decisions made by the Foreign Office and by the Department of Health and Social Care, not by SAGE.

‘SAGE recommended that when a country had been identified as having active transmission, we should check travellers from those countries.

‘The difficult was we know now, particularly with Spain and Italy, had large epidemics before they even realised. We were just not aware of the scale of transmission in Europe.

‘Had we had the testing capacity then certainly screening everybody with symptoms coming in would’ve given us a much better impression of where infections were coming from.’

Epidemiologist Mark Woolhouse, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and an adviser to Tony Blair’s Government during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, told the committee that he feared lockdown would be worse for the nation’s health than coronavirus itself. 

He said: ‘I don’t think we will be able to do a full reckoning of the cost of lockdown for some time yet. I have no doubt that lockdown itself will cause a loss of livelihoods, loss of wellbeing and, quite possibly, a loss of lives of itself.

‘But we won’t be able to balance that out for some time. I fear that, to a degree, in the UK… lockdown may be considerably worse than the disease itself.’

It comes after a study in May predicted 30,000 lives would have been saved if the UK locked down a week before March 23.

The claim was made by mathematical sciences expert Dr John Dagpunar, from the University of Southampton.

He predicted how different scenarios could have affected the progress of the outbreak in Britain and suggested that starting the lockdown on March 16 could have limited the number of deaths to 11,200. 

Detailed statistics predict that more than 50,000 people have already died with COVID-19 in the UK, but this study from the University of Southampton suggests that number could have been kept to 11,200 if lockdown was introduced a week earlier

Detailed statistics predict that more than 50,000 people have already died with COVID-19 in the UK, but this study from the University of Southampton suggests that number could have been kept to 11,200 if lockdown was introduced a week earlier

Britain was one of the last countries in Europe to put the rules in place – Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, France, Austria, Spain and Italy had done it days or weeks earlier.

Dr Dagpunar said in his paper ‘literally, each day’s delay in starting lockdown can result in thousands of extra deaths… it does pose the question as to why lockdown did not occur earlier?’  

Dr Dagpunar’s study considered the number of people infected with the virus, its rate of reproduction, hospital bed and staff capacity, and the proportion of patients who die, among other factors.

He calculated the death rate to be one per cent, and the pre-lockdown reproduction rate (R) to be 3.18, meaning every 10 patients infected a further 32.

The paper estimated that 4.4 per cent of all patients need hospital treatment, 30 per cent of whom will end up in intensive care.

Of the intensive care patients, a hospital stay lasts 16 days on average and half of them go on to die.

Of the other 70 per cent, a hospital stay averages eight days and 11 per cent die.

Running these factors through an algorithm based on the timing of the UK’s outbreak, Dr Dagpunar suggested that the March 23 lockdown could have resulted in a total of around 39,000 deaths. Britain is known to have passed this grim landmark number already.

If lockdown had been started a week earlier, on March 16, the model suggested, there could have been a ‘very large reduction’ in deaths, limiting them to around 11,200.

The virus would have infected four per cent less of the population in this scenario (two per cent compared to six per cent), the study said, and the demand for hospital beds would have been lower. 

Dr Dagpunar said: ‘In hindsight [this] clearly illustrates that earlier action was needed and would have saved many lives.’ 

He said the number of people who would go on to die in the scenarios was ‘extremely sensitive’ to the timing of the lockdown. 

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