Says government expert Neil Ferguson as he suggests up to 2 million people might already have been infected.
Professor Neil Ferguson is said to have noticed ‘early signs’ that the highly contagious infection was being curbed by the draconian measure’s being enforced nationwide, with the rate of increase in hospital admissions declining resulting in less stress on the NHS.
But Professor Ferguson convinced Downing Street to drastically increase its efforts to stop the outbreak after warning that 250,000 members of the public could die under a controversial plan to build-up ‘herd immunity’.
He also indicated that three per cent of the UK (around two million people) might already have been infected, and said the figure could reach as high as five or six per cent in densely populated London.
The glimmer of optimism emerged after Boris Johnson delivered a rallying cry for Britain to work together, thanking everyone who was contributing in a video from his quarantine bunker in Downing Street.
But deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries has warned that Britons should not expect a return to ‘normal life’ for six months, and possibly longer.
We expect restrictions to be reduced over the coming weeks as long as the UK continues to stay at home and protect each other by social distancing.
A Nobel Prize-winning scientist from Stanford University today also claimed that the coronavirus outbreaks in New York City and Italy were burning out.
Professor Michael Levitt, who accurately predicted the demise of China’s crisis after analysing the raw data, added Spain’s outbreak also looks to be slowing – but added there ‘aren’t enough numbers’ to say the same for the UK.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, leading epidemiologist Professor Ferguson said: ‘We think the epidemic is just about starting to slow in the UK right now… it is the result of the actions people have taken and governments have taken.’
He said the number of deaths was a reliable indicator of an outbreak, but gave you the picture from two to three weeks ago.
‘In the UK we can see some early signs of slowing in some indicators – less in deaths as deaths do lag by long time…
‘But if you look as the number of new hospital admissions per day for instance, that does seem to be slowing down a little bit now.’
Prof Ferguson stressed the rates of hospital admissions had ‘not yet plateaued’ but the rate of increase looked to be slowing.
He also said the epidemic was spreading at different rates in different parts of the country.
‘It is quite clear across the country, the epidemic is in different stages in different parts of the country,’ he said.
‘In central London it could be as many as 3 per cent to 5 per cent of the population has been infected – maybe more in individual hot spots. In the country as a whole in the UK, maybe 2 per cent or 3 per cent.’
He said antibody tests, currently in final stages of validation, would be ‘critical’ to the understanding of the epidemic, adding they would ‘hopefully’ be available in days.
Dr Harries told a Downing Street press conference last night that people should not be viewing the coronavirus crisis as something that will blow over soon.
She said it would not be clear whether the ‘social distancing’ lockdown is working for another two or three weeks – after Easter – with deaths set to rise further.
But even if the draconian restrictions do succeed in ‘squashing’ the peak of the outbreak, reverting to a ‘normal way of life’ immediately would probably lead to a disastrous new spike in infections.
It comes after Formula One engineers have helped develop a new breathing device for coronavirus patients.
The Mercedes team and academics at University College London took just four days to produce the first ‘continuous positive airway pressure’ (CPAP) device – 100 of which are now going into clinical trials at a hospital in north London.
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