UK could have Europe’s worst coronavirus death rate, says adviser | World news

The UK could end up with the worst coronavirus death rate in Europe, one of the government’s leading scientific advisers has said.

Prof Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust and a pandemics expert on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the figures of almost 1,000 daily deaths showed the UK was in a similar situation to other European countries that have been badly affected.

Asked whether the UK could be the worst hit, Farrar told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It is possible. Numbers in the UK have continued to go up. I do hope that we are coming close to the numbers reducing. But yes, the UK is likely to be certainly one of the worst, if not the worst affected country in Europe.”

He held up Germany as an example of a country with a lower death rate that had “very early on introduced testing on a scale that was remarkable and continued to do that and isolate individuals and look after those who got very sick”.

“By isolating those that were positive it meant they weren’t able to infect other people,” he said. There were undoubtedly lessons to learn from that, he added.

With the UK considering possible ways out of its lockdown, Farrar said testing in the community had been a way for Germany to buy time to deal with the crisis. It had given it an additional six to eight weeks to ensure health systems were up to capacity, he said.

On the same programme, Alok Sharma, the business secretary, avoided the question of whether the UK was at risk of having the worst death rate in Europe. On Friday, its daily toll was 980, higher than either Italy or Spain before their curves started to flatten.

Prof Jeremy Farrar

Prof Jeremy Farrar: ‘The UK is likely to be certainly one of the worst, if not the worst affected country in Europe.’ Photograph: James Drew Turner/The Guardian

France has recorded a daily death toll of more than 1,000 but unlike the UK it counts mortality in care homes as well as hospitals in its daily figures.

Sharma stressed it was a global pandemic and different countries were at different stages in the spread of the disease.

he insisted the measures the UK had taken were on course to slow the trend of number of deaths and the advice to stay at home was aimed at flattening the curve.

A disputed recent study from world-leading disease data analysts projected the UK would become the country worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle predicted 66,000 UK deaths from Covid-19 by August but this was revised down to 37,000 later.

However, the newly released data was rejected by scientists whose modelling of the probable shape of the UK epidemic is relied on by the government. Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said the IHME figures on “healthcare demand” – including hospital bed use and deaths – were twice as high as they should be.

In March, modellers relied on by the UK government, led by the team at Imperial College London, said the number of deaths could reach 260,000 in the UK with no restrictions on movement but they hoped to get this down to 20,000 as a result of the lockdown strategy.

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