UK Coronavirus infection rate 'seems to be slowing' thanks to social distancing

30 March 2020, 12:41

Shoppers stand at least 2 metres apart while following social distancing guidelines
Shoppers stand at least 2 metres apart while following social distancing guidelines. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The UK coronavirus pandemic seems to be slowing down thanks to social distancing, the government's leading epidemiology adviser has said.

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said the lockdown measures brought in by the government last week seem to be showing early signs of slowing the spread of Covid-19 down.

"In the UK we can see some early signs of slowing in some indicators - less so deaths because deaths are lagged by a long time from when measures come in force," he told the Radio 4 Today programme.

"But if we look at the numbers of new hospital admissions, that does appear to be slowing down a bit now.

"It has not yet plateaued, so still the numbers can be increasing each day but the rate of that increase has slowed."

Professor Ferguson said the epidemic was spreading at different rates in different parts of the country.

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Professor Neil Ferguson said it looks as though social distancing measures could be working
Professor Neil Ferguson said it looks as though social distancing measures could be working. Picture: PA

"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% to 5% of the population has been infected - maybe more in individual hot spots. In the country as a whole in the UK, maybe 2% or 3%."

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.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the country on lockdown for three weeks, urging people to remain in their homes unless they need to buy food or have some exercise.

The aim is to "flatten the curve" of the pandemic in the UK, to give the NHS the best chance to deal with the influx of patients and save their lives.

Professor Ferguson said yesterday that the country will need to remain in lockdown until at least June to give the country the best possible chance to bring the virus under control.

The deputy medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, has also said socially distancing measures will need to be in place for around six months before things go "back to normal" to ensure any further outbreaks of Covid-19 are contained.

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