British Govt’s chief scientific adviser says 20k dying would be a ‘good outcome’
The UK Government has warned that 20,000 deaths in the country from the deadly coronavirus outbreak would be considered the “best case scenario.”
The British Government’s chief scientific adviser says that, while 20k people dying from COVID-19 be a devastating loss, it would be a “good outcome” in such terrible circumstances.
Speaking to MPs Wednesday morning, Sir Patrick Vallance insisted that this figure is the “best case scenario” when taking into consideration the drastic social distancing measures introduced in the UK this week.
Vallance told officials from the Government’s health committee there are now likely to be 55,000 unrecorded cases in the country currently based on scientific estimates.
Sir Patrick said that limiting the number of fatalities in the United Kingdom to 20,000 would still be “an enormous amount of deaths and it is an enormous amount of pressure on the health service.”
“Having spent 20 years as an NHS consultant as well as an academic I know exactly what that looks and feels like… I don’t think any of us have seen anything like this,” he continued.
“This is the first in not just a generation but potentially the first for 100 years,” Sir Patrick added.
He said it was a “semantic difference” to argue whether the UK had shifted from a process of delaying and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 to an attempt to suppress it.
Today the official number of people officially diagnosed with the deadly airborne virus in the UK reached 1,950, although experts expect the real figure to be significantly higher.
Health Committee chairman Jeremy Hunt said he understood roughly 1,000 people could be infected for every death and asked whether this meant there are around 55,000 cases.
Sir Patrick said: “We’ve tried to get a handle on that in Sage (the special adviser’s group for emergencies).
“If you put all the modeling information together, that’s a reasonable ballpark way of looking at it. It’s not more accurate than that.”
Vallance said the UK could start to see the infection rate begin to fall within two or three weeks based on social distancing measures set out by the Government this week.
Britons have been asked to avoid going to pubs, restaurants, cinemas and concerts as much as possible.
Sir Patrick even told Hunt that over-70s should avoid going for Sunday lunch with their children and grandchildren.
Even with current precautions, he said the “best case scenario” could still see 20,000 deaths in total.
“To put that in perspective, every year in seasonal flu the number of excess deaths is thought to be about 8,000,” he added.
“If we can get this down to numbers 20,000 and below, that is a good outcome in terms of where we would hope to get to with this outbreak.”
He told MPs the approach had always been to “save lives and protect the vulnerable” by delaying and suppressing the peak of the outbreak and shielding those most likely to be badly hit.
In response to questions on the Imperial College modeling used by the Government, he said: “It’s a semantic difference whether you are calling it suppression, delay or mitigation – the aim is exactly the same, which is how do you keep this thing down, and how do you keep it below the level at which you want to keep it, and how do you keep it down for long enough to ensure that you’ve actually managed to achieve that suppression.”
Answering a second question of what would happen when suppression measures are lifted, he said: “that’s one of the big unknowns in this which we are going to have to think about very carefully.”
Despite Britons being asked to stay inside as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19, scientists have warned attempts to fight the outbreak might not go far enough.
The Imperial College COVID-19 response team – which has been advising ministers – said that even with the “social distancing” plans set out by the Government, the health system will be “overwhelmed many times over.”
Scientists said even if all patients had access to treatment, there could still be 250,000 deaths in the UK and 1.2 million in the US.