Coronavirus deaths in UK 'could pass 100,000' if lockdown lifted, professor claims

26 April 2020, 16:31

Prof Ferguson is an Imperial College epidemiologist who is credited with convincing Boris Johnson to implement a lockdown
Prof Ferguson is an Imperial College epidemiologist who is credited with convincing Boris Johnson to implement a lockdown. Picture: UnHerd

By Matt Drake

Deaths from coronavirus could reach 100,000 in the UK by the end of the year if a gradual lockdown lift is implemented, Professor Neil Ferguson warned.

Prof Ferguson is an Imperial College epidemiologist who is credited with convincing Boris Johnson to implement a lockdown after warning there could be 500,000 deaths if the government took no action to tackle coronavirus.

In an interview with UnHerd, he said it was impossible to send the young and healthy back to work while keeping vulnerable people in lockdown without seeing a massive increase in deaths.

Prof Ferguson said some degree of social isolation will continue to be required until a vaccine for the killer disease is released.

But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said today that this was unlikely to happen until 2021.

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Prof Ferguson said: "In practical terms, you would require a very high level of effective shielding for that to be a viable strategy.

"If you just achieve 80 per cent shielding - and 80 per cent reduction in infection risk in those groups - we still project that you would get more than 100,000 deaths this year from that kind of strategy.

"The most vulnerable people are also the people who most need care and most need interaction with the health system and are least able to be truly isolated."

However, Prof Ferguson has been criticised in the past for making predictions based on allegedly faulty assumptions which have still shaped government strategies and impacted the UK economy.

He was behind disputed research that sparked mass culling of farm animals during the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic - a crisis which cost the UK billions of pounds.

The professor also predicted up to 150,000 people could die from bovine spongiform encephalopathy - or mad cow disease - and its equivalent form in sheep if it made a leap to humans. To date, there have been fewer than 200 deaths from the human form of BSE.

The academic has also been sharply criticised by Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke over his claim of 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 prior lockdown.

But Prof Ferguson insisted there was nothing wrong with his prediction as it was made prior to the government bringing in the unprecedented lockdown - which he said he never thought would have been introduced.

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