UK Coronavirus deaths ‘could hit 40,000 in first epidemic – with NINE more waves possible’

UP TO 40,000 Brits could die in the first wave of coronavirus – making it the worst hit country in Europe, a leading expert has warned.

Professor Anthony Costello, of the UCL Institute for Global Health, said the UK could endure up to nine more waves after lockdown measures are relaxed.

UK Coronavirus deaths ‘could hit 40,000 in first epidemic – with NINE more waves possible’
Chair of the Health Select Committee, Jeremy Hunt, heard evidence from experts   Credit: PA:Press Association


He told the Health Select Committee: “This wave could see 40,000 deaths by the time it’s over.

“If we are going to suppress the chain of transmission we all hope lockdown and social distancing will bring about a large suppression of the epidemic so far.

“But we will face further waves.

“And so we need to make sure that we have a system in place that cannot just do a certain number of tests in the laboratory, but has a system at district and community level.”

He added the “harsh reality” is that “we were too slow with a number of things” which may have led the UK to have “probably the highest death rates in Europe”.

But Prof Costello said we “should not have any blame at this stage”.

“We can make sure in the second wave we’re not too slow,” he said.

Yesterday, the death toll in the UK passed the 13,000 mark with more than 100,000 people infected.

Prof Costello said the UK could expect to see up to ten waves of coronavirus before the population achieves herd immunity.

Last month, Sir Patrick Vallance, the country’s chief scientific advisor, said around 40 million Brits would need to catch Covid-19 to build up “herd immunity” and prevent the disease returning in future.

But Prof Costello warned that this first wave of the virus is likely to see just 10 to 15 per cent of the population infected.

“We will need to see another five to six waves before we get to 60 per cent of the population infected (the threshold for herd immunity),” he said.

Matt Hancock is facing questions from MPs, the day after the Government confirmed the lockdown will be extended by at least three weeks.

The Health Secretary is being quizzed on problems with PPE, testing and how the Government reports the daily death toll.

He told his predecessor Jeremy Hunt, who now chairs the HSC and MPs the Government has a six-point battle plan to tackle coronavirus.

READ ALSO: WHO gives six conditions for ending COVID-19 lockdown

He described the first, social distancing measures, being “mission critical”, alongside the second part of the plan, building up capacity of the NHS.

“As of this morning, we have the highest figure again of spare UK-wide critical care beds, of 2,769,” he said.

“And of course the NHS Nightingale project, which has seen unbelievable roll-out, is a critical part of making sure we have always got NHS capacity.”

Outlining the “battle plan”, Mr Hancock said the third part was supply of equipment, fourth part was the supply of testing and the fifth covers treatments and vaccines.

“The more that we can do on treatments the less dangerous the disease is, and obviously on vaccines the UK is playing a world-leading role, but there is certainly still some time to go.

“The reason is because the mortality and morbidity is relatively low from this disease, terrible as the death toll is, the relative proportion of people who sadly die is relatively low.”

After outlining the sixth part of the plan, shielding vulnerable members of the population, he added: “Overall the goal is clearly to bend the curve down and make sure the NHS capacity is there,” he said.

READ ALSO: United States coronavirus death toll passes 32,000

“And at the same time, it’s to do the work to try and improve the ability of us as a society to cope with this disease.

“With the goal we can lift some of the incredibly restrictive measures we have put in place on the population in order to get the disease under control.”

It comes following reports that the head of an NHS trust in southern England has asked for the help of British fashion company, Burberry, as he fears his staff will run out of hospital gowns.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, asked the BBC for the factory phone number of Burberry, which – along with other high-end fashion retailers – has recently retooled its facilities to begin PPE production

Announcing the lockdown extension, First Minister Dominic Raab said the Government needed to be satisfied of five things before it would consider it safe to adjust the current measures.

They are:

– Protect the NHS’s ability to cope and be confident that the NHS is able to provide sufficient critical care across the UK

– A sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates to be confident the UK is beyond the peak

– Reliable data from Government scientific advisers showing rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board

– Confidence that testing capacity and personal protective equipment (PPE) are in hand with “supply able to meet future demand”

– Confidence that any adjustments to the current measures would not risk a second peak in infections.

Mr Raab said the rate of infection – the R0 value – was “almost certainly below one in the community”.

That means infected people were passing the disease on to fewer than one other person on average.

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, and Dr Alison Pittard, dean, Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine are also giving evidence to the Commons Health Committee.





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