Expert who said 5,700 may die of coronavirus in UK says it may be more

Expert who predicted just 5,700 may die from coronavirus in the UK says he was wrong and Britain is in a ‘dangerous state’ as daily deaths surge past his estimated maximum number just TWO DAYS later

  • Professor Tom Pike from Imperial College set UK death total at 5,700 last week 
  • But the amount of deaths over the weekend have forced him to rethink forecast
  • Weekend fatalities exceeded expectation the UK would follow Wuhan pattern
  • Says deaths could be higher than he thought if we don’t regain that trajectory  
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The expert who predicted 5,700 Britons would die from coronavirus now says that figure was underestimating the peril the pandemic poses.

Scientist Tom Pike from Imperial College claims that the UK is in a ‘dangerous state’ amid the Covid-19 crisis.

He calculated his original death rate based on the assumption that Britain would follow a similar pattern to Wuhan, China, where the virus originated.

His paper put Britain’s peak at 260 deaths a day – but that number has already hit over the weekend.

Professor Pike told The Times this changes his projections entirely, saying: ‘We don’t know where that uptick is going to go, or if it will keep going in the same direction

‘That’s critical in terms of the projected total deaths. If we don’t regain the Wuhan trajectory, each day we are building up more deaths. It’s a very dangerous state to be in.’ 

The paper by Imperial College London last week predicted that if the country follows the same trajectory as China did, it could see between 4,700 and 7,100 deaths.

And the peak of the outbreak, which could see between 210 and 330 people die in a single day, could happen next Sunday on April 5, it predicted.

Professor Pike (pictured) fears the death rate could now be higher 

The study estimated that the true death figure would be around 5,700 – the figure is considerably lower than the 20,000 warned about in the doomsday scenario paper which convinced the Government to tighten up its efforts to stop the virus. 

That claim, published by Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the Government’s leading COVID-19 advisers, warned that tens of thousands could die if people weren’t forced to stay at home. 

A projection from the same university, developed by engineer Professor Tom Pike, compared eight countries’ death rates to China’s after Beijing put the nation into shutdown. 

It showed that up to 41,000 people could still die in the US, 60,000 in Spain, 32,000 in Italy and 23,000 in France. 

It comes after another paper this week said countries around the world have averted disaster by sending their citizens into lockdown and that 40million could have died if they hadn’t.

More than a billion people worldwide are now in some form of lockdown as the number of confirmed coronavirus patients has soared past 500,000 – but the dramatic measures are saving millions of lives, said another study from Imperial.

It said that almost the entire world population – seven billion citizens – could have been infected if the virus was allowed to spread unchecked. 

The data from last week’s paper showed the UK’s total deaths from coronavirus to be estimated at 5,700, if the country follows the path China took after introducing a lockdown there. Spain could now be the worst-hit nation with more than 45,000 deaths

Last week’s estimates for the UK – if it followed the same trajectory as China – showed Britain could have 5,700 deaths, and the peak would be 260 fatalities on April 5

More than a billion people around the world are now living under some form of lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But scientists say the dramatic measures may have saved 10s of millions of lives.

A study by Imperial College London predicted that if no measures had been taken to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, 40 million people could have died.

Researchers at Imperial College London made the findings based on analysis which estimated the potential scale of the pandemic across the world.

But with mitigation strategies such as protecting the elderly and social distancing, the death toll could be reduced by anywhere from 50 per cent to 95 per cent, saving millions of people.

In the model, the team found that, if left unchecked, around seven billion people could have been infected – about 90 percent of the global population.

Worldwide 530,000 people so far have been been infected and more than 23,700 people have died.

The researchers stressed the models were not predictions of what will happen, but illustrated the benefits of rapid, decisive and collective action.

Just last week Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said that keeping the number of coronavirus deaths in the UK at ‘20,000 and below’ would be a ‘good outcome’ but still ‘horrible’. 

The estimates in Professor Pike’s paper show that Italy could realistically have 28,000 deaths and Spain would have 46,000 fatalities – the highest in Europe. 

The United States would have 28,000 deaths, Netherlands 6,000, Germany 4,000, France 18,000 and South Korea, 150.

The analysis in the paper, co-authored by Dr Vikas Saini, ‘suggests that early adoption of social distancing is more effective than delayed implementation, even of highly restrictive measures.’ 

It concludes ‘there may be a threshold of public health intervention beyond which a decline in death rates begins to occur.’

The data for the study was taken from the European Centre for Disease Control website on Tuesday March 24.

Answering questions about the new paper on Twitter, Professor Pike says the estimates are purely data driven and ‘there is no epidemiological modelling, or in fact any modelling, in our analysis.’

He also adds the projections in the paper will only be accurate if the UK continues on the same trajectory as China.    

The team who worked on the study predicting seven billion people could have become infected said the lockdown method of containing the disease, which appears to have successfully stopped it in China, has been the world’s best hope.

Data last week showed the UK ( second column) may only reach a peak of 260 deaths per day, a tenth of the feared fatality rate in Spain (fourth column)

Dr Patrick Walker, who worked on the paper, said: ‘Our findings suggest that all countries face a choice between intensive and costly measures to suppress transmission or risk health systems becoming rapidly overwhelmed.

‘However, our results highlight that rapid, decisive and collective action now will save millions of lives in the next year.’

Several measures have been taken including lockdowns around the world such as in the UK, several US states, India, Spain, Italy, France and China.

The study looked at what would have happened in an out-of-control ‘unmitigated scenario’ and said it could have left to huge loss of life.    

Professor Azra Ghani added: ‘Acting early has the potential to reduce mortality by as much as 95 per cent, saving 38.7 million lives.

‘At the same time, consideration needs to be given to the broader impact of all measures that are put in place to ensure that those that are most vulnerable are protected from the wider health, social and economic impacts of such action.’

A man wearing a protective face mask and clothing in Westminster, London, on Thursday

TRUE UK DEATH TOLL IS THREE TIMES HIGHER THAN OFFICIAL FIGURES IN LONDON HOSPITAL 

Questions have been raised over whether the official coronavirus toll accurately reflects the number of deaths seen in hospitals.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said on Sunday that there is a ‘time lag’ in the number of deaths tallied up as officials firm up the numbers and speak to families.

A tally of the NHS data updated on Sunday says 11 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 in hospitals run by King’s College Hospital trust.

But the trust’s own website, which was updated on Friday, says that 33 patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus have died.

Asked about disparities in figures at a Downing Street press conference, Dr Harries said: ‘We have to make sure that when we’re reporting the family is content and knows and all our data is absolutely accurate.’

She added: ‘There is always a time lag for us to check and evaluate that the data across the system is linked.

‘We do not want to be misreporting data and then having to correct it.

‘The public would not have confidence if we were doing that.

‘As we have sadly had to register more deaths, that time period takes longer.’

Coronavirus death toll rises by 209 to 1,228 and infections jump by 2,483 to 19,522: New figures offer a glimmer of hope that self-isolating is working as infection rates drop for the second day in a row

By Lara Keay, Milly Vincent and Sebastian Murphy-Bates for MailOnline

The UK coronavirus death toll has risen by 209 in 24 hours from 1,019 to 1,228, as the infection rates drop for the second day in a row.

There are now 19,522 confirmed cases nationwide, up from 17,089 yesterday.  Today’s increase in fatalities is the second biggest Britain has seen so far, but with 51 fewer deaths than yesterday, offering some hope that the figures are beginning to plateau.

The vast majority of cases and deaths were in England, with 190 dead aged between 39 and 105. All but four of them, aged between 57 and 87, had underlying health conditions. 

The UK coronavirus death toll has risen by 209 in 24 hours from 1,019 to 1,228. Pictured today: Ambulances at Guy’s at St Thomas’s Hospital in central London

In Scotland, one more person has died of the virus, bringing their total to 41. In Northern Ireland there were six more COVID-19 deaths, making 21 in total and in Wales there were 10 further reported deaths, taking their total to 48. 

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, who chairs the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge, said: ‘It may seem callous to say that 209 deaths is reassuring, but it breaks the run of 30% daily increases we have seen recently.

‘But it is still too early to claim that the curve is beginning to flatten off. It is also important not to over-interpret counts for single days: delays in reporting can lead to the numbers varying far more than one would expect by chance alone. For example, one of the deaths reported today actually occurred 13 days ago.’

The normally busy streets in Chinatown are completely deserted on Sunday as people choose to stay at home

Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease, University of Edinburgh, said: ‘It would be most unwise to infer any trend from a single day’s data.

‘Only when the epidemic has peaked – which is some time away – and we get sustained daily reductions in new cases and then sustained daily reductions in deaths, will we know that are beginning to get on top of the epidemic.’

The Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, saw a fatality rise of 10 today, bringing its total to 46. It recorded 200 new confirmed cases for a total of 2,615. 

Pictured: Breakspear crematorium in Ruislip, West London, has had 12 emergency mortuaries built on its site in preparation for the number of increasing deaths from the coronavirus 

It comes after a senior health chief warned that Britain must stay in total lockdown until June to properly prevent the full extent of the deadly coronavirus. 

Professor Neil Ferguson, the government’s leading epidemiology adviser, said Britons would have to remain in their homes for nearly three months, and continue social distancing until October.

To try and ensure the effectiveness of the lockdown, the Government is spending approximately £5.8million on letters that will land on 30 million doorsteps along with a leaflet spelling out the Government’s advice following much public confusion.

The letters and leaflets are the latest in a public information campaign from No 10 to convince people to stay at home, wash their hands and shield the most vulnerable from the disease. 

Today’s figures, recorded between 5pm on Friday and 5pm on Saturday, come after a healthcare data company predicted more than 1.6million people in the UK could already have coronavirus.

The total number of deaths recorded today is 21 per cent higher than the equivalent figure yesterday. The day-on-day percentage increase yesterday was 34 per cent.

It took 16 days for the number of deaths in the UK to go from one to just over 200. It has taken a further eight days for the total to go from just over 200 to just over 1,200.

Meanwhile, the number of people in the UK who have been tested for coronavirus has now passed 125,000. The total as of 9am on March 29 was 127,737. On average, around 7,000 new tests a day were carried out in the seven days to 9am March 29.

In the previous seven days the daily average was around 5,400. The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK now stands at 19,522, as of 9am March 29. One week ago, on March 22, the total stood at 5,683. 

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’. 

Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

 

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