Scientist Says Doing This Would Have Cut Coronavirus Deaths in Half
The UK could have suffered far few coronavirus deaths if lockdown measures were put in place sooner.
Looking back on the first several months of the pandemic, some government and health officials have expressed regret over early decisions made (or not made) about containing the spread, which likely led to more coronavirus deaths. Neil Ferguson, who is a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, did some of the scientific modeling that guided the UK's movements regarding the coronavirus. And this week, per the Associated Press, he told the Science and Technology Committee of Parliament that the models underestimated the speed of the spread. Ferguson even posited that introducing "lockdown measures a week earlier…would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half."
While he and other scientists estimated early on that the rate of infection would double every five to six days, it actually doubled every two to three. The UK advised preliminary social distancing measures on Mar. 17, but the government didn't introduce full lockdown until Mar. 23. Per Ferguson's determinations, that lost time was devastating to the number of lives lost in the UK, which is over 41,000.
According to Ferguson, another oversight that has contributed to this total was the failure to protect residents of nursing homes from the spread. According to the BBC, as of May 1, over 8,000 nursing home deaths in the U.K. were attributed to the coronavirus.
However, Ferguson also claimed in his remarks that, "given what we knew about this virus then in terms of its transmission and fatality," the decisions made by the government were understandable at the time. When asked at a press conference whether he and other officials made mistakes in their handling of the pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, "At the moment it's simply too early to judge ourselves."
For more about why social distancing works, check out This Is How Many People Lockdowns Saved From Coronavirus, Study Says.