Data journalist explains why UK lockdown could be extended into May

21 April 2020, 15:25

By Fiona Jones

When might the lockdown end? This data journalist told Shelagh Fogarty figures shows the UK could ease measures at the beginning of May but explained why it may be extended much further.

Shelagh asked the data journalist whether he'd seen any consistent pattern in countries in relation to the point they start to ease lockdown measures.

"When we look at the countries in Europe that are starting to ease or have put dates on when they are going to ease lockdown, it tends to be around two to two and a half weeks after they have recorded their peak of new daily infections," he said, this data being based on countries like Austria and Denmark.

He said that based on this data, the UK's lockdown could start to ease in the beginning of May but reiterated this is purely doing a simple projection and studying the behaviour of other countries.

However it's not just about the delay after the peak, it's about how much testing is going on, Mr Burn-Murdoch said, as Austria and Denmark, for example, are carrying out as many tests a day as the UK is, adjusted to their population.

For countries to ease lockdown they must know they are on top of testing, he said.

"The problem for the UK is that at the moment our testing is much less extensive than in other countries, sure we may have passed that peak of infections but first of all, we're less confident we've passed that peak because we're not testing as many people.

"Secondly, we're not yet at a stage where we're testing enough to take our foot off the pedal."

Mr Burn-Murdoch thought the UK could be in an extended lockdown like Spain and France, the common ground being both countries, particularly France, has struggled to get testing up to the required levels.

"Based on a very simple delay after peak analysis, we might say start of May, but it terms of the need to get testing much more extensive and the fact that our outbreak was relatively large compared to other countries, those will both suggest something later than that."

While it is hard to exactly pinpoint the peak of the virus, the data journalist said it appeared to be two weeks ago on 8th April. He said the caveats are this data is of hospital deaths only, and secondly, if pointing to merely one day and calling it the peak is "a little but dubious".

Peaks tend to flatten and then plateau, "we don't see a sudden drop," he said, and for countries who are past their peak the daily death rates don't alter much for the following two weeks. It is unlikely that the UK will be any different.