Locking down the UK just one week earlier could have prevented around 30,000 deaths due to coronavirus, scientists have claimed.
By using statistics to put together a model, researchers believe if the UK had imposed measures seven days earlier, its death toll would be similar to the 8,000 in Germany.
They also said lockdown could have been shorter and less economically damaging.
The modelling comes from British scientist James Annan from Blue Skies Research, who wrote in a blog: ‘Implementing the lockdown one week earlier would have saved about 30,000 lives in the current wave (based on official numbers, which are themselves a substantial underestimate).
‘It would also have made for a shorter, cheaper, less damaging lockdown in economic terms. And this is all quite simple maths that every single modeller involved in SAGE was fully aware of at the time.’
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And other researchers said even small changes in the early stages of a pandemic could make a huge difference.
Dr Kit Yates, senior lecturer in mathematical biology at the University of Bath, told the Telegraph: ‘In the early stages of an epidemic, the number of cases is growing exponentially. This means even a small change in the rate of spread or in the timing of interventions can make a big difference a short period of time down the line.
‘It is clear that, had we locked down sooner, we would have reduced the spread earlier, limiting the number of cases and consequently the number of deaths.
‘The other benefit of locking down earlier would have been bringing cases under control sooner and potentially allowing the release of lockdown sooner.’
Boris Johnson announced lockdown measures on March 23, when 359 deaths had been reported. This was on the same day as Germany, which had reported 86 deaths and has now cautiously eased lockdown.
The UK’s death toll has now passed more than 36,000 people.
Radio 4’s More or Less programme, which discussed the figures, also suggested testing regimes could have had an impact. At the time of lockdown Germany was carrying out 50,000 tests daily, but the UK was not reaching that weekly.
Some have suggested the research from Mr Annan is too simplistic, as other factors may have come into play, such the public not following an earlier lockdown as strictly.
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