UK could become 'worst affected country in Europe' from coronavirus

12 April 2020, 12:05

The UK is likely to be "one of the worst" affected European countries
The UK is likely to be "one of the worst" affected European countries. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The UK could become "the worst affected country in Europe" from coronavirus, a medical expert has warned.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a research-charity based in London, said it was possible the UK could end up with the worst coronavirus death rate in Europe.

"Numbers in the UK have continued to go up," Sir Jeremy said.

"And yes, the UK is likely to be certainly one of the worst, if not the worst affected country in Europe."

He added that continued community testing would help the country buy some time to deal with the pandemic - giving health systems six to eight weeks to prepare to work at capacity.

"Undoubtedly there are lessons to learn from that," Sir Jeremy said.

His warning comes as the UK death toll looks set to surpass the 10,000-mark on Sunday, after the country reached 9,875 deaths on Saturday.

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He also suggested there was evidence that black and other ethnic communities were more at risk from Covid-19.

"There is some evidence growing both in the United States and here in Europe that people from BAME backgrounds are more at risk," he added.

"What is critical to work out is whether that is something specific to that background or is it related to other risk factors we know about - age, other illness people have: diabetes, people who are obese have been more affected, people with high blood pressure, people with heart disease, lung disease."

The medical expert noted there had also been "almost 100 reports" of cases in South Korea where people had seemingly re-contracted coronavirus, casting fresh doubt over how long post-infection immunity was thought to last.

"It is critical to understand whether that is one viral infection that has persisted in an individual for a considerable time and has now reactivated or whether they have been infected with a second virus," said Sir Jeremy.

"Either way, it suggests that immunity perhaps in some people is not complete and that has major ramifications for the ability to make a vaccine and for the community to be protected against future waves."

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